Faith groups help Haitians and speak out against ill-treatment


Faith groups – many of whom have long advocated for a more welcoming immigration policy – have struggled to keep up with the rapidly evolving Haitian migrant crisis, trying to help those in need while attacking the harsh tactics of border patrol employees. against them.

Before thousands of Haitian migrants dispersed last week from a camp in the border town of Del Rio, Texas, a coalition of churches and other groups were providing them with sandwiches, water and more. essential products. Since their dispersal, many migrants have received help from faith groups in Houston and El Paso as they seek to connect with relatives and sponsors across the United States.

Immigration extremists criticize some of the efforts of religious activists, saying their efforts encourage even more migrants to come. But those who provide aid see it as an extension of their religious mandate to help the needy.

“We are apolitical,” said Carlos Villareal, a Houston-area leader in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who has mobilized volunteers at a short-term transition center in Houston to help out. hundreds of migrants arriving from Del Rio.

“Our concern is mainly with the families, that we can help them,” Villareal said. “This is also the golden rule – do to others what you would have done to yourself.”

The transition center was set up earlier this year at the request of the White House in response to earlier migrant influxes, Villareal said. It offers families a place to shower, have a meal, and contact sponsors who would pay for their plane or bus tickets to join them while their case goes through the immigration process.

Most Haitian migrants are expected to apply to immigration judges for asylum or other legal status – requests that could be denied and lead to possible deportation.

Villareal says he meets migrants with similar stories to his parents, who immigrated from Mexico in search of a better life, so as not to be a burden on society.

“These people are just here looking for an opportunity,” he said.


Mobilization of faith-based groups began almost as soon as the sudden influx of migrants began in Del Rio, with Haitians converging from various Latin American countries to which they had fled their besieged Caribbean homeland.

Volunteers from a coalition of Christian churches and other groups in this region along the US-Mexico border have prepared more than 10,000 sandwiches for Haitian migrants camping under the bridge that connects Del Rio to Ciudad Acuna in Mexico said Shon Young, president of the Val Verde border. Humanitarian coalition.

Their work started with around 20 churches and has spread to more than 100 churches and other organizations, said Young, who is an associate pastor at City Church Del Rio.

Her church also raised donations and the coalition set up an Amazon wishlist that included juices, hand sanitizer and snacks. The response – from American and Haitian organizations and distant individual donors – has been overwhelming, Young said.

The camp numbered over 14,000 people at its peak. Many Haitian migrants are deported and flown back to Haiti, but many others who gathered in Del Rio have been released in the United States, according to two US officials.

The Department of Homeland Security transported Haitians from Del Rio to El Paso, Laredo and the Rio Grande Valley along the Texas border, and added flights to Tucson, Ariz., Said one of the responsible. They are handled by the border patrol at these locations.


The El Paso Baptist Association has offered migrants to test for covid-19 and provide food, clothing and a place to sleep while they contact family members or other sponsors. Since the end of July, the association has helped more than 300 migrants, mostly Haitians, and expected many more to arrive from Del Rio, said Larry Floyd, the group’s executive director.

Catholic-led nonprofits and other faith-based organizations have long been at the forefront of efforts to support migrants and asylum seekers along the Mexican border, providing essential services to two sides of the Rio Grande.

Pope Francis praised the work of Sister Norma Pimentel, Executive Director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley. Other well-known groups include the Jewish Family Service in San Diego, which provides accommodation and other aids to migrants, and Annunciation House in El Paso, which provides shelter to migrants while they plan their journey to other American cities.

Annunciation House, which says its mission is based on Catholic education in social justice, has prepared to receive several hundred migrants from Del Rio, executive director Ruben Garcia said.


“First they are tested,” Garcia said. “Once they are tested for covid, we start to welcome them.”

At times, faith groups have embarked on a polarizing national debate over immigration policies. Although many praise their work in helping migrants, some critics say it encourages more people to come to the United States.

“Many of these religious groups confuse two problems (…) of the Center for Studies on Immigration. The center favors more restrictive immigration policies.

Many religious leaders joined an appeal last week organized by the national nonprofit Faith in Action network urging the administration of President Joe Biden to stop deporting migrants to Haiti without giving them the opportunity to seek asylum. in the United States and protest their treatment after the broadcast of images of Border Agents on horseback patrol using aggressive tactics.

The Catholic Social Justice Network lobby called for increased surveillance of US customs and border protection. The network’s director of government relations, Ronnate Asirwatham, said CBP had “a history of systemic abuse and racism.”

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