Los Alamos Steps Up Big For Asylum Seekers

The load of 70 boxes of supplies delivered to Colores United in Deming Oct. 25 for legal asylum seekers. The contents were donated by Los Alamos County residents. Courtesy photo

Items loaded in a minivan. A large van was filled too. Courtesy photo

The Deming common room and dining area. Kim Taylor on the right. Courtesy photo

Ariana Saludares, far right, her daughter, Morgan Schaller and Kim Taylor in a relaxation space at a center that provides assistance for legal asylees in Deming. Courtesy photo

Los Alamos

On October 25th, those in Deming NM who are assisting legal asylum seekers felt the generosity of Los Alamos County residents. That afternoon, two vans delivered about 70 boxes of much needed supplies to their center—run by Colores United, a group of determined and compassionate folks from the area.

The delivery guys were Kim Taylor, Morgan Schaller, and myself. Met by Ariana Saludares, the Executive Director of Colores United, we three toured the facility, met staff, savored the smiles on several guest’s faces, and watched children enjoy a playroom and a playground.

We learned that each guest had previously spent 3-7 days in a federal detention center, been designated a bona fide asylum seeker, and then released to the Deming program. Most people then stay in Deming for 2–7 days before traveling to a sponsor’s home community—usually in a remote state. In some cases, no sponsor can be easily identified and the shelter staff place calls around the US to find a sponsoring entity, often a multi-week process. With about 200 guests arriving per week, it’s a massive and amazing undertaking for a sparse team in a town of about 14,000!

The “shelter” actually seems for now to be a highly structured program in which people are provided a room at a nearby Days Inn, but spend all day at the secure community center (a refurbished bike store). There they can safely rest, hydrate, eat community meals, and make their future plans. Even a small clinic — from a borrowed fifth wheel — is onsite for occasional smaller medical needs.

On our delivery day, about 50 new people had arrived, mostly from Ecuador and Nicaragua. But sometimes home countries are outside the Americas, and have included Russia, Turkey, Senegal, etc. How in the world do the staff communicate with everyone? Google Translate! Plus miming and hand signs as needed. Smiles, kindness, and persistence seem to somehow make it work.

While Ariana was thrilled at the hefty amount of clothes, food, shoes, and toiletries that had just arrived, it was her learning that over $6000 in monetary donations were collected that brought tears to her eyes. She explained that her FEMA lifeline of monthly funds had run out for the year (as at other shelters), and our new money would enable her to pay her staff for another month. The furloughs she’d envisioned could be avoided—at least for awhile.

Colores United is nailing down a plan to have small groups visit Deming for a week, stay in a comfy casita, volunteer and learn at the day-center, experience regional attractions, and “have fun”. A few folks are piloting this now; expansion may be coming soon.

We don’t know how many dozens of Los Alamos County people made this possible. Six congregations put the word out to their members, and word of mouth presumably helped from there. Next year this collection probably will be repeated, and hopefully on an even larger scale.

For those wanting to provide more help to this ever-changing and weary population, please contact Cathy Schaller at cathy.schaller@icloud.com to donate winter clothes, socks, etc. She will be able to arrange delivery of those items to Deming in coming weeks. Direct monetary donations can be made at coloresunited.org.

Many thanks to these congregations, which played major roles in our recent success:
Unitarian Church of Los Alamos
The United Church of Los Alamos
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Los Alamos
The Los Alamos Jewish Center
White Rock Presbyterian Church
Bethlehem Evangelical Lutheran Church

Well done, LA County!! So many of us remembered that “There but for fortune go you and I”.

The playroom. Courtesy photo

The playground within the enclosed compound. Courtesy photo

Tyler Taylor learns how donated clothing is organized and distributed. Courtesy photo

The pantry. Courtesy photo

Toilets at the day-center.  Guests’ hotel rooms have showers. Courtesy photo

Morgan Schaller, Ariana Saludares, Tyler Taylor and Kim Taylor/Courtesy photo