DePaul students organize “La 72” fundraiser to support migrant shelter in Mexico

My time spent at The 72 Shelter for Migrants (La 72 Hogar Refugio Para Personas Migrantes) in Tenosique, Tabasco was life-changing. As part of last summer’s Chiapas Human Rights Practicum, classmate Jordan Malka and I interned at a human rights organization and lived in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico. With the help of Chiapas program creator and director Professor Leonard Cavise and past Chiapas program participant Katherine Faydash, we were able to visit the migrant house.
Jordan Malka ('15) and Marie Silver ('15) pose with a volunteer during a visit to La 72 Shelter for Migrants in Tabasco, Mexico.

Faydash, who now resides in Mexico, introduced us to local human rights activist and artist Saul Kak, a volunteer at The 72. Jordan and I arranged a visit to the shelter with Kak’s help and were struck by the work of the people at The 72 and the hardships faced by the migrants staying there. We were inspired to help.

Upon return to Chicago, we organized a fundraiser to support the shelter. On February 28, we held an event at Bottom Lounge in Chicago, in coordination with DePaul’s Society for Asylum and Immigration Law, International Law Society, National Lawyers Guild, Latino Law Students Association, Journal for Social Justice and Center for Public Interest Law. The event was a great success, raising $2,000 to send to the house to help provide food, clothes, medical supplies and other necessities.

At the fundraiser, we spoke about the shelter and the dangers migrants face journeying through Mexico to the United States. Jordan explained that many migrants travel atop a large freight train known as La Bestia, or “The Beast,” which runs from the south of Mexico all the way north to the United States. As its name suggests, the train is extremely perilous: numerous train accidents occur, causing migrants to fall and get injured or sometimes killed. Additionally, many migrants fall victim to organized crime groups who brutally kidnap, attack or sexually assault those traveling on top of the train. In fact, The 72 Shelter is named after the 2010 massacre of a group of 72 migrants who were kidnapped by members of Los Zetas, one of Mexico’s most powerful drug cartels, in the state of Tamaulipas.

I discussed the services the shelter provides to migrants at the outset of their journey. Fray (Brother) Tomás González Castillo, of the Franciscan Province San Felipe de Jesús in the southeast of Mexico, is the director of The 72 Shelter. He and others from his order, in collaboration with another human rights organization, opened the shelter in 2011. In addition to providing for the basic necessities of more than 300 migrants daily, Fray Tomás, a few other Franciscan brothers, and a group of volunteers work day and night to provide medical attention, psychological services and group counseling to prepare migrants for the dangerous trip ahead. They also organize culture-sharing and solidarity activities. Finally, the shelter provides legal orientation for migrants seeking available legal remedies.

Following the presentation, various items were raffled, including an iPod Touch and a three-month membership at Wicker Park Fitness. The event culminated in a live auction for a weeklong vacation at a luxury resort in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. All of the students who helped make the fundraiser possible were pleased with the turnout. Fray Tomás was very grateful for the donation as well, saying, “I thank you all a lot for your efforts and everything you do for The 72 and the people who stay with us.”

“The event was a chance to both get informed and take action for migrants in Mexico,” said ILS board member Katie Filous. “We often hear about immigration issues once people arrive in the U.S., but we don’t hear about the trials they faced getting here.”

Third-year law student Andréa Sinacola was also enthusiastic. “This event really opened my eyes to the situation in Mexico and what DePaul students are doing to fight for migrants on a very dangerous journey to the United States,” she said. “This event was a great way to showcase the talents of DePaul law students and give information and fundraise for a worthy cause.”

For more information, or if interested in donating to The 72 Shelter, please contact Marie Silver at, or visit the shelter’s English-language website.