Humanitarian Aid

Volunteers continue to document the conditions at Open-Air Detention Sites (OADS) and provide humanitarian aid on a daily basis. Regardless of the temperature and climate, rain or shine, volunteers bear witness to the injustices at OADS.

The extraordinarily heavy rains that have impacted our San Diego region have been disproportionately felt by communities already suffering from historic marginalization. Precarious conditions are exacerbated by the loss of homes, jobs, and businesses and an increased sense of uncertainty. Another largely invisible group caught up in the unprecedented rains in our county includes migrants who get drenched when they enter the country irregularly, walking miles to the section of the border wall known as “Whiskey 8” to turn themselves over to Border Patrol. As is etched on the 30-foot-high steel bollards, the words “Whiskey 8” have become synonymous with an OADS where Border Patrol detains people as they wait to be picked up and transported to processing facilities. Whiskey 8 became widely known by organizations and individuals that began documenting abhorrent human rights violations and subsequently began providing continuous emergency assistance since the lifting of Title 42 in the Spring of 2023 until now. It’s been over 200 days since we set up the first humanitarian station to provide emergency assistance, and the situation at Whiskey 8 has become more dire as injuries, extreme weather, and political extremism intensify.

We remain steadfast in our condemnation of government-inflicted human suffering. From the beginning, we have demanded that the federal government and the Border Patrol agency eliminate the use of open-air detention sites to hold migrants and people seeking asylum. We have called for Border Patrol’s parent agency, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), to end the practice of holding people, including children, under conditions that threaten health and prevent access to basic hygiene needs and care. CBP and the federal government have no excuse to continue using the OADS and, as a consequence, put at risk the lives of migrants and people seeking asylum. It is unacceptable that thousands of people must suffer in the rain for hours, through cold, and sometimes with severe injuries after falling from the wall. Although the images of crying children, of women disabled by falls, and of the dead have not appeared in the media recently, impacted families are forever scarred, and we have these images imprinted in our memory. For more than 200 days, the organizations that provide emergency assistance at Whiskey 8 have continuously denounced these terrible conditions.

The government and the Border Patrol have ignored public opinion and insisted on keeping people in the OADS for hours at present, but during cold months, people have been left waiting for long hours and even days and nights. The organizations carrying out the work at Whiskey 8 have relied on the generosity of communities from across San Diego County and beyond that offer solidarity. These communities have extended a hand and demonstrated their generosity by donating items that have undoubtedly alleviated the desperation of people who come to Whiskey 8 without shoes, no proper outdoor wear, and, in some cases, severely injured. San Diego communities have responded by bringing blankets, coats, shelters, tents, fruit, bread, water, coffee, baby diapers, and donations for purchases of needed supplies. We thank the thousands of hearts and hands who felt like helping and acted on it.

The work and coordination at Whiskey 8 depend on the sacrifice and extensive experience of organizations and volunteers who have served migrants for decades and continue to give their best. We will continue to support migrant and asylum-seeking sisters and brothers who, for their own reasons, began their journey to reach the United States and ended up at Whiskey 8. Those who are interested in lending their support to the efforts at the wall are asked to commit to the following:

  1. The main purpose for being at Whiskey 8 is to document the conditions and note violations of national standards and human rights in OADS in order to shut down CBP’s use of those places; 
  2. The secondary function is to provide humanitarian support to migrants and people seeking asylum awaiting processing at a Border Patrol facility.
  3. The treatment of migrants, people seeking asylum, and volunteers will be completely respectful.
  4. Sometimes, there may be the presence of anti-immigrant individuals who seek to exploit the conditions at Whiskey 8 to promote racist and violent opinions. In these cases, we ask volunteers to de-escalate the situation and document the incident.

We conclude by thanking and appreciating the sacrifice, dedication, and generosity of hundreds and perhaps thousands of community members who have spoken up while seeing images of migrants and people seeking asylum under these conditions. We are inspired that communities across San Diego County will continue to demonstrate the solidarity in their hearts, especially with those who have traveled from far away and arrived at Whiskey 8. The work of the organizations and volunteers that receive people once the Border Patrol releases them at the Iris Trolley Station in San Ysidro also greatly needs support. We extend the invitation to those who can activate their solidarity and come to provide support in whatever manner feels appropriate.