Notre Dame students volunteer at US-Mexico border

SOUTH BEND, Ind. --- Two University of Notre Dame students are spending their summer break on the US-Mexico border at hospitality shelter for undocumented immigrants. 

Daniel Rottenborn and Francis Brockman have been working at Casa Vides in El Paso for more than five weeks. Rottenborn said the narrative that all undocumented people are ‘criminals or gang members’ is not the reality they are seeing nearly seven minutes from the border. 

“These are just people,” he said. “They’re just parents, that love their kids like anyone of us and the response from our government has been disheartening in a lot of ways.”

Since President Trump’s executive order, which stops the practice of separating children from their parents at the border, Rottenborn said the shelter has seen 10 to 25 refugees a day. 

“It’s been a lot heavier flow of refugees than I’ve heard in the past,” he said.

Rottenborn said at the shelter he and Brockman are tasked with doing laundry, cooking, and making the transitions for immigrants seeking asylum in the U.S. a lot smoother. He said people can cross the border legally or illegally and be sent to an ICE detention facility. 

Rottenborn said there’s often overcrowding in the detention facilities and many of the refugees are released to their shelter 

He said while at the shelter the people are no longer being detained and are free to go wherever they want in town, as the shelter works to get them in contact with their sponsor. The sponsor is often a family member in the U.S., who the refugee can stay with, once vetted by ICE. 

“We’ve been living in solidarity with one another,” Rottenborn said. .”We’ve become our relationship, is not just worker and people who need help. It’s a friendly relationship at this point.”

In an ABC News/Gallup poll, it found Americans are more likely to support legal immigration, describing it as a good thing. Rottenborn, who is the son of an immigrant, said most of the people he works with want secure borders. 

“But we want the government to play by the rules,” he said.  “When we don’t, when us as a nation don’t play by the rules, the victims are the immigrants and the asylum seekers, the desperate, the poor, the people that need our help.”



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