~ by Rhina Guidos, Global Sisters Report
U.S authorities have been content, of late touting the latest statistics showing lower numbers of migrants entering the country at the southern border. Instead of increasing, as some had predicted following the end of a Trump-era health rule, unlawful entries between ports of entry along the U.S. southern border decreased 25% from what they were a year ago, U.S. Border Patrol said on June 20.
After the projected migrant crisis on the U.S. side failed to materialize, members of the Catholic Church, including many sisters, are reviewing the numbers to better assess how to help migrants and to talk about what they have learned and how to go forward post-Title 42.
The numbers may have decreased on the U.S. side, but in the border town of Piedras Negras, Mexico, “the number of migrants who have arrived and who keep arriving have increased” after Title 42, Franciscan Sr. Isabel Turcios said in a June 22 Zoom webinar to mark World Refugee Day.
“We’re in a difficult situation on the border,” she said during the presentation. “We’re facing a big task.”
Before Title 42, sisters at the Piedras Negras shelter put together lists they shared with authorities on the U.S. side, singling out some families who might qualify for asylum, as well as adults or children with special needs in their shelters. Many of them were able to enter the U.S. But when Title 42 expired and authorities pushed the use of the CBP One app to apply for asylum, “reality changed,” Turcios said.
“It’s like the lottery,” said Patrick Giuliani, policy analyst with El Paso’s nonprofit Hope Border Institute, who participated in the webinar. “There are people who secure a date [to book appointments to seek asylum in the U.S.] in a matter of days and others never get a date. You have people with sick children waiting for a chance (to enter the U.S).”
In El Paso, as in other parts of the country, Catholic sisters have continued to pray for migrants and for their legal woes as other barriers have been erected to keep them out, Turcios said. All the while, many sisters continue to oversee work of shelters so that travelers have food, clothing, water, and sometimes a word of comfort or legal advice. But it’s getting tougher to help them keep their spirits up given the rapid changes and the difficulties faced by those stuck on the Mexico side, she added.
The sisters’ work at the border with migrants at the El Paso diocese has been invaluable, said Bishop Mark Seitz in Spanish during a May 15 prayer service at the city’s Cathedral of St. Patrick.
“I’ve always said the work of religious women with immigrants has been the backbone of our response,” Seitz, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Migration Committee, told Global Sisters Report. “They have been so well-attuned to the needs, so loving to those who are suffering, and they are willing to give of themselves so generously that they have been irreplaceable in terms of our response. Our people here are generous and willing to help, but the sisters bring an ability to lead and organize. I’m grateful.”
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