Special Report: Sidewalk School for asylum seekers

asylum school.jpg

Sidewalk school (Source: KGBT Photo)

Hundreds of children sit in limbo waiting with their families for their asylum cases to be heard by an immigration judge in Matamoros, Mexico.

Many leaving everything behind in their home countries, including their access to an education.

One Valley women is making sure these children get an education while they wait for their asylum case to be heard.

It isn’t your typical classroom, children all gathered on the side of the street. But it’s the only type of education asylum seeking children will get.

On an abandoned sidewalk, Felicia Rangel Samporano, founder of the Sidewalk School for Children Asylum Seekers, showed us where they’ve been giving classes every Sunday.

A forgotten necessity, these children had no other option but to neglect.

“I started to bring her notepads and pencils and it made me realize children need something else besides sitting out here on the plaza every day,” said Samporano.

The Houston native says it all started before MMP (Migrant Protection Protocol), when she would help a group of 30 asylum seekers, that number now has turned into thousands.

With a group so large, she decided to make a change, “I just decided to move here to Matamoros, so I could run the school more efficiently.”

Samporano isn’t alone and is using resources from within to help her facilitate the school.

Ray Rodriguez is one of her teachers and is an asylum seeker himself fleeing from Cuba.

“It will be six months on the twelfth,” said Rodriguez.

Unlike his students, Rodriguez has an education and is working while he waits in Mexico.

“I’m just waiting for my court date, as the same as they are, and I know how hard it’s been on me – living in Mexico, which is not what I had planned or thought it was going to happen to me. Just think about what may go through the mind of a little kid,” said Rodriguez.

Rodriguez was an English professor in Cuba, and is now Samporano’s right hand, as she navigates living across international lines only knowing English.

“The people who live in my building, they still come out here to eat breakfast and dinner. I was serving them when they were here in the tents, so now I just serve them in our apartment building,” said Samporano.

Due to Samporano living in Mexico, she can supply foods others organizations can’t, due to Mexican Customs.

“We bring apples and oranges, and we are able to bring sandwiches, like ham sandwiches with cheese, which other organizations cannot do that,” said Samporano.

Adisleidy Aguila is another asylum seeker from Cuba and is helping Samponaro run the school.

Aguila says as long as she remains in Mexico and can help out, she will.

While several of these families still have months to go before they face an immigration judge, Samporano says she is going to continue to work towards giving these children something to look forward too.

They have setup a GOFUND ME page to help with their expenses. 

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