Catholic Charities helps immigrants with temporary stays in South Africa

0

Omar R. tried to collect his thoughts as his wife, Maria, sat on the bed in their hotel room in San Antonio, staring out the window into the distance. Their 4-year-old daughter, Jony (looks like “Honey”), was crawling around the bed, playing with Barbies donated by local families, innocently oblivious to her parents’ concerns.

For now, the hotel serves as a temporary residence for the Venezuelan family after their four-month trip to the United States. The first time they were stopped by Mexican immigration officials near the Texas border and deported to southern Mexico. The second time they arrived in the United States, crossing from Piedras Negras, Mexico, on April 16.

But now they can’t reach friends who Omar, 26, thinks might be potential sponsors in Colorado or other states while they work through their immigration cases.

“The people we were talking to are not responding anymore,” said Maria, 22. “And his other friend might take it, but not all of us.”

Thanks to the work of Catholic Charities of San Antonio and other non-governmental organizations, the young family says they have at least one place to stay. They fled Peru amid political and economic instability and are among hundreds of people dropped off daily at the San Antonio bus station after being processed by Border Patrol agents at the border.

The couple arrived at the hotel this week. In conference rooms turned into makeshift offices and refueling stations, Catholic Charities staff learn about immigrants and their families.

On Monday, migrants choose clothes for their families in a room set up by Catholic Charities San Antonio in a hotel. The association helps migrants to find accommodation, food, clothing and, if necessary, to travel. They also provide legal assistance when needed.

Jerry Lara / San Antonio Express-News

Where are they going? Do they have a sponsor to help them at the reception? Or will staff have to find them shelter in a town they are heading to?

“We try to reach families, a friend, a friend of a friend, to see if someone can receive them for a few days,” explains S., one of Catholic Charities’ humanitarian aid specialists. The agency asked that his name be kept confidential for security reasons.

If they don’t have plane tickets, Catholic Charities buys them for the immigrants.

Some might stay just one night. Others stay longer.

The agency calls shelters in areas or cities where immigrants might be heading, but lately many of them have been full. In the meantime, the immigrants who remain here receive toiletries, food, clothing and other basic necessities.

Every day, Catholic Charities sees 100 to 150 immigrants here, many of them families. There are 300 on the busiest days.

Last week, 654 people stayed at the hotel, said Antonio Fernandez, CEO of Catholic Charities of San Antonio, and Lizzy Perales, vice president of programs for Catholic Charities.

Tara Ford, a spokeswoman for Catholic Charities, notes that her agency is generally not told how many people come or what time they arrive.

Fernandez said that “when they come at 2 or 3 in the morning, you do the right thing.”

6-year-old Venezuelan twin brothers play with their devices while waiting for their mother to drop by Catholic Charities San Antonio.  The association helps migrants to find accommodation, food, clothing and, if necessary, to travel.  They also provide legal assistance when needed.

6-year-old Venezuelan twin brothers play with their devices while waiting for their mother to drop by Catholic Charities San Antonio. The association helps migrants to find accommodation, food, clothing and, if necessary, to travel. They also provide legal assistance when needed.

Jerry Lara / San Antonio Express-News

Since March 2020, the United States has rapidly blocked the asylum claims of hundreds of thousands of migrants at the border under a public health law known as Title 42, to reduce potential coronavirus transmissions. .

With virus cases dropping sharply in recent months, the Biden administration announced that Title 42 would end on May 23. Texas has sued to keep the law in place, and a Louisiana judge temporarily blocked its repeal on Monday.

Prior to the decision, Catholic Charities was among those predicting a surge in the number of migrants.

“We expect a huge, huge number of people arriving, but we also don’t know what to expect,” said S., the humanitarian aid. “We don’t know what to expect each day. But now, after Title 42, they’re telling us to prepare because the numbers can double, triple, so our agency plans to help as many families as possible accordingly.

Catholic Charities is opening a satellite office in Del Rio on May 27, four days after Title 42 is scheduled to end, Fernandez said. It will provide services similar to that of San Antonio, from assistance to migrants to help for the homeless and those experiencing food insecurity, among other aids.

But because the Del Rio office is likely to be at the forefront of the wave of Title 42 immigrants, it could be pressured to help its San Antonio counterparts coordinate.

Fernandez notes that his San Antonio office will likely bear the brunt of the surge that crosses the border from Laredo to Del Rio.

A Honduran family en route to Indianapolis awaits help from Catholic charities.  The association helps migrants to find accommodation, food, clothing and, if necessary, to travel.  They also provide legal assistance when needed.

A Honduran family en route to Indianapolis awaits help from Catholic charities. The association helps migrants to find accommodation, food, clothing and, if necessary, to travel. They also provide legal assistance when needed.

Jerry Lara / San Antonio Express-News

“In the worst case, it’s 18,000 people a day. That’s what (the Department of Homeland Security) said,” Fernandez said.

He said his agency works with the City of San Antonio, which offers rooms in a second hotel, and other nongovernmental agencies such as Travis Park Methodist Church, which can accommodate about 30 people.

“If people leave at 2 or 3 or 4 in the morning, they go straight to the airport,” Fernandez said.

But he said he would like to treat them with dignity and respect whenever possible. This could lead Fernandez or his staff to call the Mi Tierra restaurant, for example, and ask the Cortez family for beans and rice so the immigrants can be served a hot meal.

Omar and Maria were among dozens of families who arrived at the hotel on Monday, and others in transition joined them in makeshift Catholic Charities rooms.

Immigrants took clothes from a rack in an area and sorted through milk crates for supplies including toothbrushes and toothpaste, deodorant and baby formula. Others chose canned goods and bottled drinks that were replenished by nuns from Catholic orders who volunteer in San Antonio.

Coats, jackets and blankets are a big necessity as some immigrants head to northern states, Ford said.

Holding her three-month-old daughter in her arms, a Honduran migrant receives help from Catholic Charities San Antonio at a hotel.  The association helps migrants to find accommodation, food, clothing and, if necessary, to travel.  They also provide legal assistance when needed.

Holding her three-month-old daughter in her arms, a Honduran migrant receives help from Catholic Charities San Antonio at a hotel. The association helps migrants to find accommodation, food, clothing and, if necessary, to travel. They also provide legal assistance when needed.

Jerry Lara / San Antonio Express-News

“Some of the families don’t have a place, no sponsor or anything, so they’re trying to figure out what to do,” said S., the humanitarian aid worker. “What is the plan?”

Omar and Maria explained that in May 2018 they left Venezuela, where Omar worked in a bakery factory, and resettled in Peru, where Omar worked in construction.

But after Pedro Castillo was elected president of Peru last year, inflation soared and they found themselves living hand to mouth, Omar said.

They sold everything they owned for cash to get to the United States, where they expected to find sponsors who were not family or close friends, but acquaintances.

Omar said one of the acquaintances works for a company that does construction and duct work in the United States. This person, Omar said, had told him that the company he worked for was helping with housing, but the arrangement would only accept Omar, not Maria and their child.

“We’re trying to see who’s going to receive us because we don’t know what’s going to happen,” Maria said as she cupped her face in her hands.

[email protected] | Twitter: @gmaninfedland

Share.

About Author

Comments are closed.