Two migrant children eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches passed out by volunteers, and who cannot find shelter. 100 sandwiches were distributed in less than 15 minutes.
All of this past year, I have been going to help at our Columban migrant projects and other community shelters here on the border. Doing the advocacy work is fulfilling and necessary but at many times it can be frustrating and slow. I like to go and connect with migrants so I can be reminded of why all of this work is important.
This year, I interacted with many migrants and heard so many stories. Some were more painful than others, but all are equally moving. This last week, however, what I have witnessed has been completely different and heart-breaking. Hundreds of migrants have found themselves on the streets of both Cd. Juárez and El Paso. All our shelters are at capacity. Some local parishes like Sacred Heart in El Paso even opened their doors to let families with children sleep. Yet so many others that cannot find a space end up sleeping outside in the cold.
It is a tradition here to celebrate the “Posadas”, a reenactment of the Holy Family's journey to Bethlehem. This year it feels like we are living that in real life. The last few days I have seen so many families with small children, single mothers with children, and pregnant women needing a place to stay. Our government is not doing all that it can to give them shelter. Yet even in the middle of confusion and uncertainty, so many community members are volunteering and donating clothes, blankets, and food. This border community — my community — continues to show love and compassion by sharing the little that they have. Couldn’t the rest of the United States do that too? Couldn’t politicians and national leaders agree to restore asylum and establish the necessary processes to avoid this unnecessary suffering?
This testimony comes from Cynthia, who serves as the Advocacy Coordiantor for St. Columban Mission for Justice, Peace and Ecology. She is based in El Paso, TX where she is witnessing firsthand the manufactured crisis on the US/MX border as caused by our inhumane border policies.
As 2022 comes to an end and we prepare to celebrate the holidays with our loved ones, many families are unsure of where they will spend the night. Just like the Holy Family on their journey to Bethlehem, at this very moment, hundreds of families find themselves on the journey to what they think will be a safe place. Migrants and asylum seekers venture on this dangerous journey to escape violence, poverty, environmental degradation, and political unrest. Many travel miles, selling the little that they have to support their journey north. In their journey, many are robbed, raped, kidnapped, and abused, with many even venturing through the deadly "Darian Gap." Confused and with little information they hold to a dream, a hope, that there will be something better once they get to the United States. However, once they arrive they find “No Room in the Inn.”
After weeks or months or traveling, they arrive at the US/Mexico border only to be welcomed by a 30ft wall with razor wire and law enforcement agents with guns. The confusion caused by inhumane policies like Title 42 forces people to take the most desperate decisions. In the last few weeks, with the hope that Title 42 would be lifted and they could lawfully present themselves asking for asylum, hundreds of families arrived at the US/Mexico border. In the border community of El Paso and Cd. Juarez, where Columbans have been serving for more than 25 years, the numbers of migrants arriving daily quickly overwhelmed all shelters and community services. For days, thousands of migrants on both sides of the border have been sleeping on the streets in the cold. The number of migrants arriving is expected to continue to increase.
Right now, these migrants and the border communities who are welcoming them need your support. There are a number of ways you can do this:
- Support our Columban migrant ministry in Cd. Juarez by donating here.
- Support El Paso's Sacred Heart Church's "Migrant Fund" by donating here.
- Support or volunteer with our local partners, like Annunciation House or Border Servant Corps.
Both the Old and the New Testament reveal God’s abiding love for migrants (cf. Ex. 22:21, Lev.19:33-34, Mt. 25:35, Rom. 12:13). Scripture, as well as our Church’s two-thousand-year history, tell many heart-breaking stories about people fleeing from violence, persecution, and poverty. As the Christmas story remind us, even Jesus and his family were refugees.
Reflecting on these sacred foundations, the Catholic Church recognizes that people have the right to migrate to sustain their lives, and the lives of their families, if they cannot do so in their country of origin. The migrant’s story reminds us of a fundamental principle of Catholic social teaching: that the goods of the earth are intended to benefit all people. It is never God’s will that some of God’s children live in luxury while others have nothing (cf Caritas in Veritate, 21).
As people of faith, God calls us to live in solidarity with others, especially with those who live in poverty or are marginalized. Christmastime is a reminder, as Pope Francis teaches us, that we have "an opportunity to meet Jesus Christ, who identified himself with the foreigner who has been accepted or rejected in every age."