AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
In places along the border, some college students are getting a close-up look at the situation as it's unfolding. Youth Radio's Billy Cruz met two students in El Paso, Texas, who are spending their summer volunteering in a migrant shelter. He sent this report.
BILLY CRUZ, BYLINE: When I arrived at Casa Vides, I found a nondescript, two-story brick building close enough to the border that you could walk to it.
(SOUNDBITE OF KNOCKING)
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Hi there.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: You're here to talk about Daniel and Francis?
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: OK. Come on in.
CRUZ: This is a place that provides refuge for two types of people - those who evaded Border Patrol and those who were caught, handed over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and then released while their cases are pending. Casa Vides provides food, shelter and legal support to up to 40 people at a time. It's run by the faith-based, nonprofit Annunciation House.
DANIEL ROTTENBORN: My mom is an immigrant from South America, so this issue has always been close to my heart.
CRUZ: That's Daniel Rottenborn, a 19-year-old volunteering for the summer. He and 20-year-old volunteer Francis Brockman are both students at the University of Notre Dame.
FRANCIS BROCKMAN: Well, for me, I've taken a lot of Spanish classes and so I wanted to put that to use. And just the situation with immigration today, like, the political climate, it was something that I wanted to explore and learn more about. So I feel like coming to the border was a pretty obvious choice.
CRUZ: At this shelter, there are families and a number of teens, and that's an interesting experience for a young volunteer like Francis.
BROCKMAN: Sometimes there will be people that come into the house that are 19 or 20, like, around our age, and they'll already have kids with them. So that's just an entirely different situation that I could not even imagine at this point in my life.
CRUZ: Casa Vides said we couldn't talk to any of the residents, but Francis and Daniel have heard from the teens here, some of whom crossed illegally instead of through a port of entry, about fleeing all kinds of violence on their journeys. What little they say says a lot.
ROTTENBORN: You see this 16-year-old kid. He's with his family. You know, he has a bed. He has food for the first time in a while. And, you know, he's just sitting there quiet. You know, it strikes me as vastly different than the experience of a normal American teenager.
CRUZ: Francis and Daniel could have gotten more typical summer jobs. Francis says his other option was working at a bagel shop back home in Ohio. For the past month, the two have been living at Casa Vides, sharing a room adjacent to the migrants' rooms. They spend their time doing chores from cooking to cleaning to organizing games.
BROCKMAN: Along this wall here, we have more stuff for babies. We have a room full of sheets, like, dry goods, medicine.
ROTTENBORN: Yeah, we have a closet full of cleaning supplies, baby diapers, sanitary products - all of the hygiene and health-oriented stuff as well.
CRUZ: Daniel says he and Francis aren't trained on how to work with babies and children. The shelter's goal is to promote independence and allow parents to do what they do best - parent.
ROTTENBORN: And the resiliency that we see from these kids when they come into our house and they start playing with the toys, immediately it's like you flip a switch and they go from, you know, scared kids hiding behind their parents to just kids.
CRUZ: This past weekend, a bus pulled up and 32 undocumented parents got off. With a few small belongings, including papers, they quietly walked into Casa Vides, greeted by staff with hugs. The parents had been separated from their children at the border. Their criminal cases were dropped after Trump reversed his policy on family separation. Casa Vides tells migrants that they can stay at the shelter as long as they want. Many will connect with family members in the U.S. and move out to live with them while they wait for their day in court. For NPR News, I'm Billy Cruz in El Paso, Texas.
CORNISH: The online magazine Borderzine contributed to this story. It was produced by Youth Radio.
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