“The Intake team began working on the street without equipment and tools and now we have a secure location where the intake team can help migrants start their lives in the United States.”
On June 21, 2022 SAMU First Response in Washington, D.C. welcomed the very first bus at Union Station from Texas carrying 28 migrants. The arrival of the buses from Texas and Arizona started off by dropping off asylum seekers at Union Station, which is the heart of public transportation in D. C. It is located a mere 500 feet from the United States Capitol building, which is where the U.S. congress meets to write the laws of the nation and where every single U.S president was inaugurated into their position of power.
The buses would arrive anywhere from 5:00 am to 11:00pm and each week the timing varied. In the very beginning, the team relied on five individuals dedicated to coordinating the operation, alongside the assistance of four volunteers from Spain that aided in additional support. Eventually the intake team was able to grow to eight dedicated team members. The intake job is to meet and welcome each bus and provide the basic needs of food, water, and clothing while talking to each individual and family to determine what is their plan and final destination within the United States.
Over the next 11 months the team operated out of the food court in Union Station and several generous churches that provided them space. This meant that with each bus that arrived supplies had to be gathered, counted, and stored in the personal vehicles of some of the team members. Once the buses arrived, the team would unload the items and bring them into the dedicated locations where they would be able to serve the buses and hope that the public wifi would be working that day. Amrine Obermueller, who has worked on the intake team since July 2022 recalls, “Every weekend we would greet the buses at the food court in Union Station. There were times when safety and security were in question, as it is a public space, and it was out of our control who would arrive to the space or attempt to speak to the migrants as they were taking moments of rest and waiting for our team to process travel.”
Today, the Intake team is a much more robust operation with 11 individuals dedicated to the arrival of the buses and walk-ins. With the growth and expansion of the Intake Team and the opening of the new D.C. respite location, the team is now able to welcome incoming migrants in a secure and safe location with a dedicated area to rest, facilities to store cold water or hot coffee, kitchen to prepare hot meals, clothing options and a secure place to change, and a dedicated play area for children to have an imagination again. With these positive changes, the intake team has been able to flourish even more in their positions and the resources they are able to provide for incoming migrants.
Marisela Castillo, Intake and Outreach Manager, has been able to witness the change of the Intake team and the way that they have been able to adapt over time with the resources provided. She says, “The Intake department from June 2022 to now has changed a lot. Intake began working on the street, outside bus stations, and without equipment or tools. We used tables from food courts as desks and carts as our storage. This team has always had plenty of commitment and love for the work. Now, the intake team has grown and evolved. We have people who speak French, English, and Spanish. We can now receive migrants, register and interview them, determine their needs and help them reach their final destination by providing them a safe place to rest and locate resources so that they can start their lives in the United States.”
Within a year the operation has changed immensely and Derick Alegria, who is the Lead Intake Specialist and has been a part of the Intake Team since June 2022, says that “Already a year has passed and there are so many stories to tell, but the most wonderful thing has been to witness how the intake team has grown. There used to be only four of us at Union Station receiving a bus from Texas at 6:00am and now we are 11 wonderful individuals on the team receiving buses in a secure location (with walk-in services), which I would have never imagined a year ago.”
As of today, the Intake Team has welcomed 230 buses from Texas and Arizona with over 10,000 migrants. Each member of the intake team is very proud to be part of such a dedicated and hard-working team while being able to aid in the journey of individuals trying to find a better life. “I believe that as an organization we have built something extremely successful from scratch. The preparation and execution of the process that we have been developing throughout this time has been very effective.” said Derick Alegria. As the organization grows and develops more resources in the future, the Intake team is excited to be part of the change and development to help every migrant arriving in the Washington, D.C. area.