Clothes Make the Migrant


The migrants who bravely navigate the border, evade state troopers, and present themselves to border patrol agents asking for asylum are stripped of almost everything. They arrive at our shelter, their bodies and spirits worn, clad in soiled sweatshirts, sweatpants, and makeshift footwear. The few belongings they are allowed to retain are sealed in a plastic bag: their passports, national identity cards, cell phones, and any currency they have after their long journey.

Most of them have spent at least a few days being processed in a detention center without adequate bathing facilities. They come to us dirty, exhausted, wearing filthy gray sweat clothes.

They don’t know who we are or what they can expect from us, so we usually welcome them by telling them, “¡Están libres! You are free!” We then cut off the ID bracelets used by CBP to identify them in the detention facility.

Our shelter stands apart from most others as it operates solely on our community's dedication. We have no paid staff; every individual who assists the migrants does so out of a shared commitment to welcoming and caring for our new neighbors.

Our main job is to help the migrants on their way to their final destination. While they wait for their families to buy them tickets or for us to arrange space on the Texas-provided free buses to Denver, Chicago, or New York, we provide for basic human needs such as hot meals, cots with linens, and medicine as needed.


One of the most important services we offer the migrants is La Roperia, a small room with used clothing donated by the people of El Paso.

They go to La Roperia family-by-family to see if we have clothes in their sizes. If they find some, they are welcome to have them. We limit them to one shirt, one pair of pants, and one set of underwear, but that’s because of our limited supply of clothing and the fact that they’ll hopefully be with their families in a day or two when they can buy all the clothes they want.

The impact of receiving 'new' clothes is truly remarkable. The change is tangible as they don the garments they chose, enjoy a warm shower, and use a new toothbrush. They cease to be a group of individuals in drab, soiled attire, and once again become unique, distinct individuals.

I remember one woman who found what looked like a prom dress—really over-the-top for everyday wear—but she wore it proudly. She was once again a woman!

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