Putting a face on the situation Sr Mary Ellen Lacy D.C. writes… We just returned from one of the shelters. It was in McAllen TX and run by Catholic Charities. The salvation army is supplying the food and cooks. Sacred Heart Cath Church has donated its parish center and Sr Norma MJ obtained most of the parking lot for the air conditioned respite tents and KYR tents . It is partly funded by that city. Their mayor is outstanding and has stood up for these children. He has supplied a medical mobile home, doctors to man it and tents for respite as well as a police presence for safety. I have attached pics. Of course, no pics with the immigrants. The long tents are AC’d respite tents. The released families with kids are sent by ICE to McAllen bus stop. The city picks them up and brings them to the shelter while they await their trip to meet up with their families. They are all tired and very thin.
While we were getting a tour, three different waves of people came. The first “wave” was a singular pregnant lady from Guatemala. She came into the shelter by herself. All of a sudden, every volunteer, about a hundred in all, starting clapping for her as she walked toward registration. According to the CC USA director, it is customary in Central America to clap when a welcome guest enters your home, city etc. So we clap. It was so moving. She tentatively waked by us as we clapped and said bienvenidos! and then she smiled. Someone said they were in Central America once and she felt like a rock star when they did this for her. I was hoping this Guatemalan lady felt like a rock star. Interestingly, the CC USA director also noted that 75% of all the women who come through this shelter have been pregnant. As God would have it, Sr Janina, a midwife, will be working at this shelter which has a full medical mobile home.
We took a tour of the place – the respite tents had young mothers with babes in arms. They were exhausted and seemed to be more passed out than sleeping. One young girl was asleep with a sleeping baby still latched at her breast. All of the women are very skinny and young. Another emaciated looking young woman slept with a toddler. At our visit before the new waves entered, there were about 30 single parents and very young children in the tents. There were no teenagers here, except the moms. Murietta should be so very ashamed.
Then two more waves of families came. We clapped like Jesus Himself walked in the door…because He had. All seemed to appreciate the welcome, too. We sat for a while with a Honduran family : a mother and a 10 year old and her twin 5 yo brothers and a younger brother. The mom registered them while they stayed with the monjas. (nuns) We just played and teased with them. They were smiling after a bit and really quite precocious. The 10 y.o little girl had soiled hersel prior to arrival but waited happily for a shower and food. She has long pretty black hair and wanted a brush. We were assured that she would get that and much more.
Some kids were much more shy and guarded. One young woman, a mother with child had terrible bruising about her arms, like she was punched in her deltoids. All of the kids had shoes which had holes and were dirty. In addition, they had no shoe laces, just like prisoners. They would get new shoes from the shelter.
The shelter is organized and they have a process. When the families come in, they are welcomed and applauded on their way to registration. There are phones available at no cost. Barebones info is taken and then they are off to get food in the back, served by Salv Army. They used to give food like beans and rice but quickly learned that the folks are so dehydrated/malnourished that they could not handle the heavy food. They were vomiting immediately afterward. Doctors recommended that they stop worrying about culture and just give soup and crackers, maybe a half sandwich.
After food, they go to the showers and get all new clothes bc many are coming with lice and scabies. In fact, my little gemelos showed me two little bite marks in their ears and nose which made me chuckle as I came so close for a good look. He said he had sangre, I had to look. Aaah well, it was worth it. Then they get enough clothes for the journey. The whole room was filled with clothes and sorted by size and sex. These volunteers had worked overtime. It is an unbelievable set up. They have a really nice play area for the kids to just be kids.
By the time they get to the shelter they have their bus ticket to family so they are gone quickly. No one stays at the shelter more than 12 hours said Kim , the head person at CC USA. They can rest in the tents as several were doing when we toured. They get awakened at 0430 and taken back to the bus stop with a care package of water, fresh fruit and yogurt bites.
The Dir also said they hope to introduce spiritual and emotional care by Spanish speaking religious. As God would have it, Sr Sherry ill work here as of tomorrow.
This is scarey: No one accompanies them to their final destination. They are put on a bus and sent away to meet their family member. We were told about a young woman who was headed to NY. A guy got on the bus with her. He convinced her that Boston was her stop instead of NY. When she got off with him, he kidnapped her. He got her family phone number and demanded $1500 for her return. The family called the police and got her back. This is very disturbing bc he could have kept her, forced her to work/sex acts. They are trafficking victims in the waiting. As God would further have it, I will do Know your Rights lectures and can include the need to be wary of strangers, even if they speak Spanish.
SEE ATTACHED MAP for places where people have been sent thus far. You will have to blow it up a bit There are 39 states that have received some immigrants. Each dot does not mean one person- just that the city has received at least one.
We need reception committees at the places they are going — Something like, If you are not greeted at the bus by a Vincentian/cath sister, don’t get off of it.
Cath. Charities is spearheading a lot of these shelters. All the volunteers looked very tired too- please pray for all of them.
Well that’s it for now.