Adria Malcolm

independent visual journalist and cinematographer
  
Take A Number
Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico
Biography: Adria Malcolm is an independent visual journalist and cinematographer based in Albuquerque, New Mexico and is a founding member of American Reportage - a photographic collective focusing on long-form stories about the American condition. She has... MORE
Public Story
Take A Number
Copyright Adria Malcolm 2022
Updated May 2020
Topics Documentary, Immigration, Media, Migration, Photography, Violence, War

Take A Number 

for Yahoo News

In the fall of 2018, wary migrants were lining the bridge of the Paso del Norte Port of Entry in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. They waited through freezing temperatures at night, camping out to ensure their spots weren't taken. They were waiting in line to seek asylum in the United States. Shortly afterwards, the migrants were taken to Casa del Migrante, a Catholic charity, where they could be housed while they waited. It was there that a seemingly mysterious process of numbering began. This numbering system would become known as the "list," a part of an unofficial arm of organization on behalf of Mexico because of added pressure under the "remain in Mexico" policy of the Trump administration.

On an early Wednesday morning at 4am, a family of three’s journey began as Lorena and her two children from southern Mexico made their way by plane to Ciudad Juárez. With only the clothes on their backs and papers documenting death threats, they were traveling to the border of Mexico and the United States to ask for asylum. A cartel killed her brother who owned his own business and refused to pay “quotas”. Immediately after, the man responsible for his killing began threatening her and her children.

Waiting for her in Juárez was a former Marine and long time El Paso native, Alex Varela, who spent his life in between families in Juárez and El Paso. He also ran a soup kitchen with his church, in the past has helped escort asylum seekers over the bridges that span this part of the Rio Grande to make their claims at one of the official U.S. ports of entry. Varela met Lorena and her children during a church trip to southern Mexico and agreed to do the same for them. Customs and Border Patrol officers stationed in the middle of the bridge to the Paso del Norte Port of Entry instructed Verla that Lorena and her two kids would have to be added to a “list” before they can hear her claim.

Her and her children were assigned the numbers 1173, 1174 and 1175 that were scrawled on the inside of their wrists. “It’s how you would mark an animal,” said Varela. The shelter can house 280 people at a time. It was full when Lorena arrived. Varela took Lorena and the children to a vacant house owned by one of his relatives in Juárez until space opened in the shelter or their numbers got called, whichever came first. Approximately, 60 people per day were taken to the port of entry where the Customs and Border Patrol processed the claims.

 
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