Serving at the Border, May 29-June 11, 2021

Blog by Sister Rose Marie Cummins, OP

Sister Appoline Simard and I were invited by Annunciation House to come and work with migrants on the border in late May.  You will be able to get a more detailed “picture” of our time there when you click here to view a visual presentation about our trip. Click here to view or print the presentation.

The purpose of this blog is to relate a little about our experience there and to share with you some of our questions and learnings.

Ap and I arrived on the morning of May 29.  We learned we would be working at Annunciation House’s largest shelter, Casa del Refugiado, an old metal warehouse about the size of a Costco building (125,000 square feet).  This building had a capacity for serving 500 people.  We attended a day-long orientation with Ruben Garcia, founder, and director of Annunciation House since 1978; with volunteers from the different sections (intake, dormitory, dining area, clothing shop, office, and dispensary) color-coded to help migrants and volunteers alike make their way around such a large building.

Our specific assignment was to work in the Clothing shop, helping to make sure every member of every family had a change of clothing (shoes, underwear, socks, shirts or blouses or tees, pants, dresses) for their journeys by bus or plane.  Migrants were at Casa del Refugiado for only one to three days before moving on to the next part of their transition to America.

Volunteers did many other jobs: mopped floors, served migrants in the dining room, cleaned bathrooms, did intake, made sure migrants had towels, sheets, blankets, and cots to sleep on, dispensed needed medications, contacted migrants’ sponsors, prepared sandwiches for migrants traveling to their sponsors, did laundry and took migrants to the airport.

“No human is illegal”

Ap and I lived at Casa del Refugiado, and we learned so much while we were there.  Contrary to what we had believed before arriving, our job was not to form relationships with migrants, not to exchange names and addresses, not to be asking migrants about their stories, but to help them take the next step in moving on to the next phase of their lives.  We felt both insignificant and significant—a spoke in the wheel of this large effort.

We learned other things as well:  that migrants were coming from Haiti, Guatemala, El Salvador, Venezuela, Turkey, Honduras, Cuba, and other countries; that all were seeking political asylum in this country; that their trips were arduous; that the migrants were courageous, tenacious, hopeful. Above all, every person was grateful to be where there was enough food, where there was no more trekking through a merciless desert, and out of detention.

These are some of the questions we came away with:

  • Artwork in the shelters are meant to help newcomers feel welcome.

    Would the majority of these families and individuals get settled here, then, eventually, be denied asylum and returned to the terror and poverty that has been part of their entire lives?

  • Are there enough asylum judges to hear their cases?
  • Why, after peace accords were signed in the 90s, are Guatemalans and Salvadorans still fleeing their countries in record numbers?
  • What part does US foreign policy that includes support of dictators and governments with money and arms, play in the continued violence in these countries?
  • Do we understand how our carbon footprint, our belief that we are entitled to the world’s resources affect how other people are forced to live?

These are questions of justice that we must keep asking.

Upon arriving home, Ap and I decided that we were both happy to have been part of this wonderful effort to help migrants reunite with families and friends.  We were sustained by the migrants’ beauty and the beauty in the desert around us.

               

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog

7 responses to “Serving at the Border, May 29-June 11, 2021

  1. Dear Rose,
    Thanks so much for using your wonderful writing skills to paint such a clear picture of your experience in El Paso. It feels as if you took us with you.
    I will always treasure the years we worked together as JRS chaplains at the immigration detention center. I know how you are with people – all heart.
    Thank you for the accompanying and serving you did with all the families you met during your time at Annunciation House and thank you for sharing some of your experiences with us.
    God’s peace be with you friend, Lynn Allvin, O.P.

  2. Dear Sisters AP and RM:
    Thank you so very much for your great report! We are Seattle Associates of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace (CSJP.org) and have also volunteered with Annunciation House, at Casa de Refugiado and at the Pastoral Center of the Diocese of El Paso, with the wonderful Bp. Seitz. Bless you for your work! Christ’s Peace!

  3. Thank you so much for your report and for representing all of us at the border to our global brothers and sisters. You were God’s face and hands to all those who were in your presence, no matter what task you performed. I also wished I could help, but since I couldn’t, I appreciate you all the more!

  4. Thank you, Srs. Rose Marie and Appoline for your courageous trip to go to the aid of our migrants. You have opened my eyes to really see the sufferings these people endured and may continue to endure in the future.
    I see the Body of Christ suffering and pray for them and the generous volunteers that humbly and silently aid them to experience God’s love and compassion. God bless you abundantly! Love and gratitude, Sr. Brigid

  5. Thanks, Sisters, for your generous offer to help!
    Your narration gave us much info in what a volunteer can
    do and have the capacity to do. I was so overjoyed when
    I heard that some of our own Sisters of Peace went to help.
    I so desired this but knew I could not. God bless you!
    Martina, OP

  6. Thank you for serving our brothers and sisters in our names as well as your own. What a blessing this Casa exists, thanks to the generosity of many. While I spent a week in El Salvador in December, 20000, to honor the US women martyrs, I learned firsthand of how limited my comprehension of foreign policy was, and is. My heart remains touched by the beauty and will to live of the people of Central America.

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