Philip Jacobs
Teacher, Journalist

A Year Later At the Southern US Border

Had a chance to check in with Dr. Eva Moya on Sunday.

She is a hero to the and family. Just over a year ago, I traveled with JSurge founder Rabbi Steve Bayar to bear witness to the suffering of migrants attempting to gain asylum at the border separating El Paso and Ciudad Juarez.

Both non profits sent thousands of dollars to Dr. Moya, a University of Texas El Paso (UTEP) professor and president of the Association of Latina/Latino Social Work Educators. Dr. Moya purchased shoes, clothing, cleaning supplies, personal hygiene products and distributed the items along with hundreds of teddy bears to the people held up at the border by this nation’s brutal migrant policies.

Rabbi Bayar and I arrived the day after a white supremacist with a rifle massacred 23 Hispanic people shopping for school supplies and clothing at a Walmart.

Standing among thousands of mourners, we heard faith leaders call for a healing and a unity among all people. I cannot stop remembering the voice of an elderly woman shouting “This is our Kristallnacht.”

Her screams, the tears of those we saw in Mexican migrant centers, the defeated voices of people running out of hope, this is what stays with me.

Yet I know that the border is a victim of the 24-hour news cycle. It isn’t even found “below the fold” of news publications or digital sites. The pandemic certainly has moved just about everything out of view for now as the US buries its dead, the world races for a vaccine and we all pivot to the “new normal”.

Perhaps the border will regain attention now that racial injustice is for once a real part of the national conversation, and now that we experience the history of a woman of color running on a national ticket.


Dr. Moya has not stopped delivering important supplies to migrants even with Covid-19 making it all the more difficult for a constantly virus at-risk migrant population at the El Paso border.

“A year ago we were El Paso strong,” Dr. Moya told me in an interview. “Now we have to be El Paso stronger.”

She has had her share of Covid -19 tests as she goes back and forth over the border on her mission from God. If the challenge of meeting basic needs for the migrants prior to the pandemic wasn’t daunting enough, the obstacles have just added to her mission and to the obstacles migrants during Covid-19 are now facing.

“I’m seeing worse poverty, greater food insecurity and a higher levels of fear in migrants who are escaping violence in their countries of origin,” said Dr. Moya.

On top of the conditions faced, the migrants since Covid-19 cannot pass into the US. Only travelers holding a US passport get through the border at El Paso, and that’s not without interrogation. The heavy traffic we experienced on the International Bridge coming into the US has worsened, she said.

The conditions Rabbi Bayar and I saw at the migrant centers included dorms rooms with bunkbeds practically touching, children playing on hot, dusty worn courtyards. We saw migrants turning church pews into beds or shelves for belongings. But what we saw was set up in a time of no social distancing. Now, Dr. Moya said every shelter has to screen, social distance and sometimes isolate.

“Most migrants really can’t go back home,” she said. “You have no resources, you have no job. If you get work, chances are you will be underpaid.”

Last year we were told that the chances of a migrant getting asylum in the US was under 10 percent. Dr. Moya said that with Covid-19, that number is closer to under one percent.

Still, the donations keep on coming. She is always in need of socks and underwear for the migrants. She often comes home to find donations clothing, diapers and baby formula piled high at her garage door.

“People are getting stuck in Juarez much more so than before Covid-19,” she said. “And sadly the mortality rate of those tested in Juarez is now one in four.”

JSurge and the Good People Fund, both Jewish non-profits based in New Jersey, have continued to underwrite the needs of the migrants at the southern border long before we knew the term Covid-19 and of course during this seemingly unending plague.

Both non-profits can be reached at or

For Eva Moya, the trips across the border to save the migrants don’t stop even with a plague. They simply become even more urgent.

Phil Jacobs is the Editor of

About the Author
Former Executive Editor Baltimore Jewish Times, Washington Jewish Week. Former Editor of Detroit Jewish News. Multi-time Rockower Award Winner. Best known for investigative pieces covering sexual molestation within Baltimore's Orthodox community and how it was covered up.