Things That Matter

Mexican Border Officials Arrested A Texas Woman Trying To Bring Gifts To Children Stuck In Border Camps

While millions of people were celebrating Noche Buena, Christmas, Chanukah and the other winter holidays this season brings, thousands remained in limbo because of the harmful immigration and amnesty laws that the United States has enacted under the Trump administration. Families separated from each other for months with no word on when they might reunite with their loved ones had no reason to celebrate. Older children caring for the babies and smaller children imprisoned alongside them tried to make the week slightly more festive — a difficult task for kids who should be enjoying the holidays themselves. 

Although there was no shortage of donation offerings throughout the year, the US government has turned away gifts of money and item donations to benefit detained migrants. While the winter holidays seem like an ideal time to revoke this policy, it was only redoubled — at least for the United States. Migrants stuck in south of the border because of the “Remain in Mexico” plan would hypothetically be able to get these much needed donations. 

Keeping this in mind, one Texas mom headed south with a car full of gifts and items for those in need but what she got in return was much less than holiday cheer.   

The Monday before Christmas, Anamichelle Castellano headed out of Brownsville with her car loaded with 300 individually-wrapped presents. The gifts were intended to be passed out to children at the make-shift migrant camps in Matamoros, Mexico. Castellano was travelling with an unnamed woman in her car and her husband and young daughter following in a second vehicle — also coming to help pass out gifts. 

However, instead of being able to drive through, her car was required to undergo a total x-ray scan because of the wrapped boxes and it picked up something that alerted border police. Apparently, Castellano’s husband had gone hunting sometime before and had left a lone carton of bullets in the car’s glove box. 

“Her husband had put them in there a long time ago and forgotten all about them,” Castellano’s mother, Mary Lopez, told local Houston, Texas news station KTRK.

Due to this small amount of ammunition, both women were arrested by Mexican police on the Gateway Bridge crossing from Brownsville into Matamoros. 

Castellano was charged with possession of ammunition and both women were held until late Monday night. Though they were released after only one day, the pair faced serious scrutiny while in custody. According to Castellano’s dad, who talked with local KTRK, jailers and prosecutors were threatening in nature when they addressed his daughter and the other volunteer. 

“[They were] kind of threatening her with federal prison, federal this and federal charges and we believe this is all a big set up where they’re trying to see what they can get out of it,” her father, Genaro Lopez, explained.

Castellano’s husband, Jehu, also experienced this severity. Mr. Castellano described to local KTRK that he had contacted a prosecutor in Matamoros while is wife was still in jail but the attorney “refuse[d] to compromise to anything even though it’s something so minor…he [was] not bending.” Mr. Castellano also explained that defense attorneys he contacted also wanted “ridiculous amounts of money, in the thousands” in order to help his wife. 

Though she has been released, Castellano will have to return to Mexico to face the courts about her ammunition charge.  

Castellano herself was a bit baffled over the entire run in with the law. 

In an interview she gave to KTRK once she was freshly released, the attempted gift-giver was genuinely surprised that what she saw to be a simple mistake escalated into an arrest by Mexican police. 

“I mean, I’m dressed as Mrs. Claus. I’m here bringing gifts to children. Certainly they could see that this was not a criminal smuggling attempt but, unfortunately, they didn’t see it like that.” 

Another thing the Texas mom wanted to focus on in her brief interview is the danger of the migrant camps. As Castellano explained to KTRK, the International Bridge where the migrant camps are set up is a dangerous area where girls and woman have gone missing. She attributed the peril that these migrants face to the new “Remain in Mexico” plan that the Trump Administration has forced onto the Mexican government. 

“As an America, as a human, I just can’t see that this is the right way to treat refugees. This is not how I would want to be treated.”

Her time being detained unfortunately delayed her ability to spread gifts to the migrant children of Matamoros but Castellano and her family were able to pass out needed products like diapers, soap, and other important goods.

This wasn’t the first car-full of toys Castellano has driven down for the detained children of these camps. The deliveries are part of her non-profit the Socorro Foundation. The South Texas organization helps migrant families get supplies, shelter, food, education and connects them with those who can help them through the migration process. The organization aims to remember immigrants all year, not just during this most festive time. We encourage you to do the same.

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