Sr. Mary Ellen Lacy, Daughter of Charity, shares her experiences at the border.
It has been busy since I last wrote. Last week I had asked the Daughters and LCWR immigration list serve if they might help me obtain papooses for the young moms who are getting on a bus to their next destination. The papooses have been pouring in. I received so many commitments in the first 72 hours that I suspended the program. Now, when I am not at work, I am focused on back packs for the kids to carry their stuff.
The practical process of the final leg of the journey to a loved one, is this:
After they have been processed and a sponsor(usually family) is located to take them in, they get released. Later, at their new location, they will attend immigration court to see if they can stay. But for now, they are exhausted, weakened and scared and they just need to get to that family member safely.
Immediately upon release from detention, they are dropped off at bus stops by the Border Patrol. In McAllen, TX, home to kind people, the city arranged to pick them up and bring them to the holy shelter at Sacred Heart. I have attached new photos of part of this shelter space. There, they will shower and receive enough clothes, food, diapers for the journey. They can sleep there overnight in air conditioned tents, on cots, until their bus leaves.
In Brownsville, TX, they receive similar items but the shelter closes at 8pm. Many of these families must sleep at the bus stop next door bc their buses leave in early am. This is dangerous bc the bus stop is 100 yards from Matamoros, Mexico. It would be easy to grab scared women and kids and traffick them. Although Sr Sherry spends her days at the bus stop in McAllen (with a couple gentlemen) to make certain that folks get on their right bus without interference, no one stays with the ladies and kids at night in Brownsville. That is how the idea of the papooses was born. We were talking about how vulnerable a non English speaking, travelling mother of 2-4 kids can be. We figured the papooses keeps their babies always within reach and frees her hands for the other kids and belongings; so I emailed sisters to send me papooses. To the so many who participated, I am grateful. The overwhelming response was downright newsworthy. We also received thousands of dollars for other purposes
Yet, the outpouring of support for these travelers rarely makes the news. Nor do we hear about the individual children and mothers who have fought through extreme temperatures, been victimized in unspeakable fashion and walked the most holiest ways of the Cross. They have shown courage, resolve and above all, faith. Why do so few tell that story? Perhaps their nobility, courage and honor shame us.
I know about a little girl here. I am working on her legal case. As a young teen, she fled the violence of her country with a coyote to come to the great North. She was held hostage in a stash house, suffered sexual abuse and then watched other little girls being abused. She escaped, was arrested by Border Patrol and led the police back to the stash house where they found many other victims. Most of us will never know that pain or courage.
I went to the Brownsville shelter on Tuesday night to serve. There were about 30 families and a few singles there when Sr Phylis P and I arrived. Most were moms and little kids, like 1y.o to 4yo although there were a couple teens and some moms were PG. This was an increase for this little shelter from prior weeks. The guests were showering and they were hungry. Phylis and I served soup, fruit, crackers and some frijoles. And we fed and played with babies. One mom nursed her 3 month old. She was pleased to receive a papoose. The older kids and moms had received a sandwich, apple and milk 3x a day for past 2-4 days in detention. So they were pleased with variety. We used to hear they got a baloney sandwich thrown at them so this is good news for the advocates.
Interestingly, I observed , and another volunteered also noted, that some in this group seemed to have had more resources in their home country than others we had previously met. They seemed healthier and were able to eat frijoles and tortillas whereas prior groups could not handle heavy foods due to malnutrition and lack of food during their desert journeys. A volunteer, Ramon, told us of one kid who said he came bc he refused to join the gang. They said they would take his 12 year old sister if he continued to refuse. This is an all too common story. The twist is that he was on the road to becoming a doctor. He left for the great North on the next day with his sister and mom. These cartels do not play games – they do as they have threatened.
I wondered, if, given the fact that the 3 countries together are about the size of Oregon, and more than 100,000 have come in the past 2-3 years, could it be that most of the very Poor have already migrated? So now, the cartels must broaden their takeover to the next economic class …until they are too Poor to pay. It makes sense- The “easy targets”, the first victims, have migrated to Belize, Nicaragua or the USA. Others who remain have nothing left to take, so the greed fuels the violence to advance to the next economic class, thereby reducing a new class into the depths of poverty. I am reminded, The Poor you will always have with you. I do not know this to be happening but I wonder if it could be true. Another reason all should get actively involved. ..”And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak up. ” M. Niemoller It is interesting and frightening to wonder if the violence is widening its circle of victims and at some point, it will reach victims who may fight back.
We have also heard of scores of kids on the other side in Mexican border towns who were unsuccessful in crossing bc they could not make it over the Rio Bravo del Norte. Some are taken by DIF while others are staying in border towns to “try again.”The problems revolve around cartel control of the border on that side and Mexico may be getting pressure form USA to stop further passage.
In closing, this past weekend I received a package of papooses. I have been regularly receiving them for days now. Each package reminds me that we are never alone on this road to justice. There are so many good people who choose to do the right thing outside the lens of a news camera. Anyway, within one box were three papooses and a note. It was signed by a man. I do not know how he got wind of my little project as I put it out to sisters. But he did get wind, and he let the Spirit move him to act and act quickly.
His note read: “For these holy women and children. May they forgive us our indifference.”
Sr Mary Ellen Lacy D.C.