Enedelia Basurto: Raised in a Migrant Family, Now Advocating for Migrants’ Health Needs with Health Network
Enedelia (Center left) with the MCN team at an immigration center in McAllen, Texas.
[Editor’s Note: Our Health Network Associates work tirelessly to ensure that patients who are migrating can access care despite the numerous barriers they face. Enedelia Basurto is a Health Network Association who works in concert with an immigration shelter in Rio Grande Valley to assist pregnant asylum seekers with finding prenatal care as they leave detention and head to their receiving communities. Here, we profile Basurto’s work and why she has chosen to dedicate her career to serving migrant women. Learn more about Health Network and its various initiatives here.]
“Ene is a very caring person. If I need help or have a question about a patient, she will quickly reply or send me an instant message. When she gets an urgent prenatal [patient], she will make sure that patient gets into care ASAP. Ene will not take a no for an answer.”
- Alma Colmenero
“You can feel how warm she is, very welcoming, sweet, and humble. From the very beginning I’ve always enjoyed working with her. Everyone loves her and she works so hard.”
- Brenda Ramirez
Enedelia provides information to those arriving at the center in McAllen, Texas.
The pandemic gave Enedelia Basurto, one of our Health Network Associates, a chance to work in health. Growing up the daughter of migrant workers, always on the move between Wyoming, Texas, and California, she followed that path and worked for years to provide for her children in the fields, but as she puts it, she wanted to “break the cycle,” and give her children a less mobile and more steady life than she had. She pursued a license to be a medical assistant.
Her first job after getting her license was with the University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley. Her work as a medical assistant made her a perfect fit for vaccination clinics launched by her community to increase protection from the COVID-19 pandemic. This work led her to a short-term contract with Migrant Clinicians Network, and finally full-time work with our Health Network team. Now, Basurto has been with MCN for over a year. Here, Basurto shares about her life and work serving pregnant asylum seekers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tell me a little about your background and how your experiences growing up shaped your career path.
I was a migrant worker since I was little. I was born in Wyoming. My parents would migrate to Wyoming to harvest sugar beets, and then I have other siblings that were born in California and Texas. Everywhere they would travel, one of my siblings was born. I have two daughters, and it’s been a journey. It’s been hard for me to stop the cycle. They were small and I was still a migrant worker. I would travel to California and come back, in between I had my daughters, raising them up, and also [I was] going to school, trying to help myself so I could stop the cycle. I wanted to be stable for them so they could have a long year of school and not be moving them around every time we had to move for work. I went and got my medical assistant license.
After you got your medical assistant license, you started working for University of the Rio Grande Valley. What brought you to MCN?
I was working as a medical assistant [when] COVID started. It was a disaster. We started at the [Catholic Charities] Respite Center [in McAllen,TX]. I would help with the vitals, and then they called us to help at the COVID station. I got the opportunity to go and vaccinate. We would travel, we would go around the valley. I learned about MCN during this time. I had a little knowledge about what they would do… I started as a contract employee in May 2021, and in July I went full time. I already have a year here at MCN. Now I work here in McAllen at the immigration shelter. I do enrollments. We’re the first ones to see the patients that are just coming out of Border Patrol. They come with a lot of emotions. Some come happy because they are where they want to be, they are not back in their home countries. Others come sad because they are leaving, and behind them are their families. Some leave their kids. It’s so emotional.
Enedelia provides vaccinations for those arriving at the center.
What motivates you to stay?
I think about my family. You also have to really want to help. I think it’s an advantage for myself that I’ve gone through this, it’s part of my background. When I talk to my patients, I don’t talk like a professional. I talk like we’re cousins, and I make them very comfortable. We laugh, we say jokes. Patients don’t want it to feel like a machine, or an operator telling you a script. It’s nice to have a connection with a patient. I know I don’t have the full experience. I didn’t have to cross the bridge or anything, but I understand because of my parents.
Your parents were migrant workers, what kind of work did they do?
Yes, they were farmworkers. Any labor they did, that’s what it was. My mom passed away in 2015. It was cancer. We don’t know exactly what caused that, but it can be caused by the chemicals where she used to work. It’s a theory that we sometimes think about. It can be hard to say. My dad is still alive, and sometimes he still travels to California. It’s a habit of his, going back and forth. And we let him, I say ‘if you feel comfortable, and you can still move, go ahead.’ It's part of his life. It’s part of our life.
How has this job has pushed you and made you grow?
I’ve been used to working as a migrant worker out in the fields. This has made me feel a little more professional. It’s the same kind of people. I would work with migrant people coming from other countries. I was working the same jobs as them, and I did their payroll, but this feels a little more professional. It has been an opportunity to grow and show my daughters how a person, if you keep on trying, you can go as high as you want. It’s also helped me grow with helping people. Every day it’s a new experience, a new thing. Every person has a different story.
Some who come have heard, ‘you can’t talk to nobody, don’t listen to nobody, don’t sign any documents.’ It takes time to get confidence and trust to make them feel comfortable so they know it’s safe and you’re not going to hurt them. They come scared… that’s another experience I have to think about, to find a way to work with them. As I said, every story is different. You can’t treat them all the same. You have to think about every person and how you’re going to speak to them. Sometimes you can be happy with one person, but with the other person you have to show sympathy. It is a learning experience every day.
Enedelia uses white boards as a visual aid when providing information to a group.
What does a typical day at work look like for you?
If I’m in the immigration center, I work with the migrant populations, I tell them about MCN, if they have any questions, I answer their questions… Some want to talk; others just decide to enroll themselves but don’t want to be bothered. But that’s okay. They’re coming very tired, they just got out of border patrol, they’re hungry sometimes, and they’re pregnant. So we try to make them comfortable.
In my normal office hours, I take calls, if I have a new case where I have to find a new clinic, I find the clinic closest to them. I review their medical notes to see how many months or weeks pregnant they are and determine if they need to be seen as soon as possible, if they need to be seen by a clinic or a hospital. Not all the clinics want to get a patient if they’re past a certain number of weeks. It is challenging for me to look for clinics when one doesn’t want to see her because she’s [far into her pregnancy]. I also want to find the clinic closest to her. They’re often coming without money; they don’t have a job. They can’t pay for transportation. That’s for a new case.
Sometimes the patients call me because they need a new appointment. They already have their clinic but they need to set up a new appointment. Maybe they can’t make it to the last one I set up, or maybe they just didn’t get to go… Your day goes by so fast and then its already time to clock out. It’s exciting, there’s always something that comes up that you have to do.
What brings you joy outside of work?
I have two daughters, and my family. My family is number one for me, always. I have three little dogs. They make me so comfortable. I always think that whenever I have a worry or a day that has been so stressful, they’re always there. I also like crafting, I enjoy doing flower pots, I love to do decorations. My girls get mad at me all the time because I keep buying flowers. They say ‘mom stop buying them, you keep on changing them.’ They say ‘you have flowers everywhere!’
Me and my family, last weekend, we went to see that new Minions movie. I love to take my girls out for a movie and then out to eat and just relax. We don’t go out that much. It’s relaxing for us to stay at home, do a movie night at home. Mostly I spend time with my family, do my crafting that sometimes the girls don’t like, and my little dogs. They just make me so happy. It’s just a blessing.
Enedelia wears PPE to protect herself and those she helps at the center.
Do you have a favorite quote?
It’s a Spanish quote, and I will never forget this. Since I was small, I would hear it. It’s ‘Dios tarda pero nunca olvida.’ In English it basically means, ‘God can be late, but he will never forget.’ You can be stressed, you can be mad, you can be tired… There’s a lot of bad things going on, but it helps to be close to something you can rely on. There’s somebody always that’s not going to forget you. In Spanish they say God, but it doesn’t have to be God, it can be anybody. That’s a quote I always try to tell my daughters.
Is there anything else you’d like to say about yourself and the work you do?
Yes! I’m happy here. I’m happy with what I do. My customer service skills have grown and I just can’t be more thankful for the opportunity of being here at MCN. Working with people that really need [our help], I’m really thankful for it. They’ve trusted me to work with people that really need our help, and every day I do the best I can, because that’s what motivates me to keep on and always try to do my best at MCN. I’m very happy and fortunate to be here and help people.