#MigrationIsBeautiful: Supporting Asylum Seekers Through a Coat Drive

By ABIGAIL RUSSELL

When looking for ways to support immigration efforts, collecting coats might not be the first thing to come to mind. But a group in Memphis, Tenn. wants you to think differently.

On Monday, March 25, coat-drive collection boxes were placed all around our campus. At the end of the drive, donations will be sent to Memphis to assist the efforts of the Mariposas Collective, formerly known as the #MigrationIsBeautiful Project, which is working to assist asylum seekers passing through the Memphis area. 

This grassroots organization aims to provide relief and comfort to those passing through Memphis on their immigration journeys to the United States. Greyhound buses full of Latinx immigrants, many coming straight from detention centers along the border, pass through Memphis every day. Most are seeking refuge with friends or family further north, in cities such as Detroit, Cincinnati, or Baltimore. Working out of a church and running solely on volunteerism, the project supports these migrants by greeting them with food, clothing, toys, aid, and hospitality. 

According to its Facebook page, the Mariposas Collective sees itself as “a group of people driven by love of our neighbors, feelings of solidarity, and a desire for justice.” More specifically, the organization stands for U.S. immigration reform. The group reports strategically using the image of the monarch butterfly, “which regularly and freely travels through the Americas on a natural path, unbound by borders, economies, and governments … to challenge the way we look at borders and immigration.” They even named their organization after this powerful symbol, as “Mariposa” is Spanish for “butterfly.” 

Vanya Barraza, a volunteer at Mariposas Collective spoke to her experiences with the organization in an interview with Choose901: “We are here seven days a week,” Barraza said. “We’re still meeting between five and seven buses a day. Everybody I think at first assumed that numbers would taper off. Numbers have picked up.” She estimates that the organization has helped close to 7,000 people since just October. 

In the same interview, Hunter Demster, one of the lead volunteers, speaks explicitly to the high demand for coats and jackets: “One of the first buses that I went to, there was a three-year-old without shoes and socks going to Detroit,” Demster said. “There was a five-year-old who had a hoodie and the zipper was broken halfway down, didn’t even have a t-shirt underneath.” 

Barraza relays this necessity, commenting on the state in which many of migrants arrive in. “One of the most shocking things that I have seen is the fact that these people are wearing what they had when they were traveling, and most of them were robbed at the border,” Barraza said. “So they are wearing what was left and they have been in a detention center for a couple months. So they are wearing what they’ve been wearing for maybe five months.” 

The donation boxes are an accessible and convenient way to help out. Boxes can be found in Worner Campus Center, Mathias Hall, Loomis Hall, South Hall, and the Hybl Community Center. The drive is specifically asking for non-perishable foods, warm clothes, new underwear, toiletries, over-the-counter medicines, and cases of water. Colorado College students can also give to the Mariposas Collective cause through a monetary donation, accepted via PayPal, or by buying emergent supplies from its Amazon Wishlist, which can be accessed through its Facebook page. 

Photo By Daniel Sarché
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