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Home | Tag Archives: Annunciation House

Tag Archives: Annunciation House

Amid Migrant Influx, El Pasoans Inspired to Help

“The beggar stretches out his hand not to ask, but to give you the kingdom of heaven, and you do not notice.” Elder Arsenie Papacioc

Over the last couple of weeks, El Paso has seen an influx of migrants fleeing to our border in order to seek safety, prosperity and a hope at the American dream.

During this same time frame, we’ve also seen the best, and worst, the Sun City has to offer.

I have witnessed – and been part of – a large group of people who banded together, from all walks of life, seeking to help these people, these families that are now in the United States. We’ve provided shelter, food, clothing and a way for them to connect with family within the US.

It’s an amazing thing to see firsthand how grateful they are for what is being done for them. Personally, I wish I could do more for them, we all do.

Then, on the other side of this coin, is a small group of very vocal individuals who seek nothing more than to exploit and possibly profit from these same individuals who are just seeking the same chances we’ve all had.

These same individuals are calling these migrants an invading force, illegal aliens, and worse. There are even a few who follow them around, harass them, and Facebook live their misleading rhetoric. It’s very sad.

I’ve spoken to people on both sides of the fence, those who are seeking to help these individuals and those who seek to bar them entry. The former gives me hope that America has not yet lost its core values. The latter, they leave much to be desired.

“We aren’t wanting them here,” says Chuck Lamb. “All they are doing is coming to take our jobs and start robbing our homes.”

The man with Mr. Lamb, who didn’t want to be identified, offered his opinion.

“Our President is right,” he said. “We must follow him. He was put there by God. He for sure knows who these people really are. President Trump knows!”

“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God,” said Mr. Lamb.

I did mention to Mr. Lamb and his friend that that verse would also include all leaders, not just the President of the United States.

After yelling at me, they walked away.

Yet, speaking with others, talking about why they do what they do, many of them did quote scriptures.  Ester, not her real name, told me of the Good Samaritan and the story of Mary Magdalene.

“When Mary Magdalene was anointing the feet of Jesus with expensive spikenard, Judas protested,” said Ester. “Jesus explained to Judas that we will always have the poor with us. For many years, I didn’t understand that. Then, it came to me that it’s a promise that He will always allow us the opportunity to be Christian. It’s not just a statement of fact. Look around you; there’s need everywhere. I promise you; you will always have the opportunity to honor Him.”

“It’s also paying it forward because I’ve been helped,” she added. “Christ promised us that we would always have the opportunity to help. Because if you don’t, you cannot be a Christian.”

It’s true, to be a Christian you must help, you must assist. By not doing so, or being selective in who you help, you are closing the doors to heaven.

It’s not solely a Christian effort to help, to assist. No. I did become involved in this because of Father Joseph Hector Abouid of St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church here in El Paso.

We’ve also become involved in a larger group of individuals who are helping under the coordination of Freddy Klayel Avalos. Why is Freddy helping?

“I’m helping because my dad is a Palestinian refugee and I understand the prosperity and advancement that he achieved in live are in a large part to the aid he received from people that were willing to help him and his family out,” says Avalos of Shine On El Paso.

“It’s important that people help,” says Freddy, “because in the age of social media it’s easy to read about the effort and the mission and see pictures, but it still takes manpower, womanpower to get things done, to donate, to carry, feed, cook and more. No technology or media outlet is going to do this for them; it takes a village.”

That village includes local business owners.  “I’m helping because I can,” said one business owner. “This time of year, you see these kids. I wanted to give.”

When you see a child, who was just given a jacket become so animated, so excited, it makes your heart swell, and your spirit soar. For someone to be so happy about receiving the gift of a jacket, to see how their eyes shine, to see that smile, it is life changing. It is truly life changing.

“These people have nothing, we have so much,” said the business owner. “I was able to feed these people today with the amount of money we spent yesterday eating out as a family. So, for five people I was able to feed a hundred.”

Another person from the local business community, Ronnie Lowenfield and the team at Casa Ford Lincoln have helped as well. Why?

“I see people trying to improve the quality of their life, and if I can provide a hope spark to that end simply by giving a warm blanket, smile, and hug, I don’t know why I wouldn’t help,” said Mr. Lowenfield. “If dozens of people hadn’t sacrificed their “rights” or “agendas” for me throughout my life, I’d be nothing, and so I guess this could just be that humility and compassion living itself through me today.”

I also spoke with one volunteer who is working directly with the refugees. “These people need help, and I have no excuse not to be here, you know,” he said. “We are all immigrants, everyone here speaks Spanish, has family in Mexico or someplace else.”

Yet, there’s more to why we should help.

“I believe it is our duty, and great honor, as humans to care for all human life regardless of race or nationality, especially the outcast and marginalized,” says Lowenfield. “I also think that every time a person serves another and lays down their life even for a minute for them, the world is a better place for everybody.”

That is a point I cannot emphasize enough. Very few of people and the number grows smaller each day, can be counted among the First Nations. Most everyone you see, most everyone you encounter, their family had to come here from somewhere else:
Mexico, South America, Germany, Cuba, Ireland, Russia, and the list goes on and on.

Yet, we seem to be forgetting that in a misguided push for Nationalism (I have a problem with anyone who says they are a Nationalist. That word has very negative connotations to it).

We all came from somewhere, and we should all help. Period.

“In my times of need,” said the volunteer, “there have been other people to help me, strangers that helped me out. It’s my opportunity to give back, and the community has been giving back as well.”

This volunteer told me he couldn’t count the number of people he helped process, but he had yet to meet a murder, a rapist, a drug dealer in the groups he’s seen.

“These are families,” he says. “They are escaping poverty, escaping the hardships of their country, and they come here seeking a better life like everybody else did.”

Then I met María, near the Greyhound bus depot in Downtown El Paso. Maria was born in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico in 1942. When I met her, she was watching, crying and saying a rosary.

“I want more to be giving,” she said. “I give my coat, and for one some camisas (shirts) Now, I have for them this rosary I pray and hopeful heart and wishes.”

So many people giving what they can. So many people wishing they could do more. Still, so much left to be done.

As the one volunteer said, he has yet to meet someone who is a criminal. That is a point a lot of people are missing, like our own local agitator, InfoWars and even the President of the United States.

As these individuals, as these families present themselves to Border Patrol, Customs and Border Protection Agents, or others working along our nation’s borders, they are not simply granted wholesale entry.

No, there is a process that they must go through. When they come and request asylum one of the things the must undergo is a
background check. Have bad actors presented themselves at the border and attempted to gain entry under the guise of asylum seeker?

Yes, it’s happened. What you don’t hear is that those individuals have been taken into custody and removal proceedings have begun.

CBP and Border Patrol are very good at doing their jobs. They follow established protocol and admit those who qualify. They are not simply bussing in groups of illegal aliens and leaving them at Greyhound. Nor is this some elaborate and staged event as some have claimed.

These people are individuals who need our help, who need our compassion. What they don’t need is to be hounded, castigated or maligned. They are, just like you, human beings with hopes and dreams.

“I’m very proud of my community,” says Avalos. “Private citizens are stepping up to face a federal crisis, and people from all over the country are also pitching in and helping with what they can.”

“I think this is a tremendous opportunity for us to show the rest of the world what El Paso does better than any other community I’ve ever seen,” adds  Lowenfield. “Care and personally sacrifice for others as if they were their mother or father, sister or brother, daughter or son, expecting nothing in return.  This is a key ingredient that I think makes El Paso the greatest community in the world to live my life
and raise my family.”

As President Ronald Reagan once said:

“Through this Golden Door, under the gaze of that Mother of Exiles, has come millions of men and women, who first stepped foot on American soil right there, on Ellis Island, so close to the Statue of Liberty.

These families came here to work. They came to build. Others came to America in different ways, from other lands, under different, and often harrowing conditions, but this place symbolizes what they all managed to build, no matter where they came from or how they came or how much they suffered.

They helped to build that magnificent city across the river. They spread across the land building other cities and towns and incredibly productive farms.

They came to make America work. They didn’t ask what this country could do for them but what they could do to make this, this refuge the greatest home of freedom in history.

They brought with them courage, ambition and the values of family, neighborhood, work, peace and freedom. We all came from different lands, but we shared the same values, the same dream.”

If you would like to help, you can a charitable contribution to Annunciation House; They have a secure way to give on their website.
If you have physical, nonperishable items, you can take them 5801 Silver Springs Drive, to the office of Shine On El Paso.

You can also message them, via Facebook, and they can make arrangements with you.

Let’s show the world that El Paso – that America – can rise up to any challenge, and help those in need.

***
Have a story you want to share? Get in touch with Steven at Steven@EPHeraldPost.com or call 915-201-0918.  Follow Steven Cottingham
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Annunciation House Receives $40,000 Grant from Relief Fund

The El Paso Community Foundation, in partnership with the Prudential Foundation, granted $40,000 to Annunciation House to help pay for the mounting cost of housing undocumented migrant families seeking asylum in the United States.

Annunciation House has been filled to capacity with mostly Central American migrants fleeing poverty, hunger, and violence in their home countries. Annunciation House works with hotels and motels in the area to house more people in need, after Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials began leaving hundreds of migrants on the streets of downtown El Paso over the holiday season.

The organization is spending $150,000 a month for hotel rooms due to a lack of housing space at their shelters, according to media reports.

The Migrant Families Relief Fund was created in the El Paso Community Foundation last June after federal agents began separating migrant families on the U.S. side of the border. It has received small gifts from Community Foundations around the country, and a large gift from the Prudential Foundation.

The Fund benefits four organizations that assist migrants — Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services; Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center; the Detained Migrant Solidarity Committee; and Annuncation House.

“This is the second distribution from the Migrant Families Relief Fund, and Foundation staff felt the timing is crucial,” said Eric Pearson, President of the El Paso Community Foundation.  “However, the immediacy of this response does not diminish the longer-term needs of these minors and families, offered by all of the organizations named in the Fund.  We know that legal support and other services are important as well, and the Foundation wants to be thoughtful.”

The El Paso Community Foundation is waiving all credit card and administrative fees for the fund; 100% of donations will pass through to the four organizations so they can provide direct services.

To donate to the fund, call 915-533-4020 or go to epcf website.

1,600+ Migrants Released in El Paso Since Sunday, More Expected

The Christmas week surge of migrants released by ICE into El Paso was somewhat to be expected. However, to understand what happened this week, you have to understand the process.

For the last three months, Annunciation House, the non-profit organization that houses migrants after their release from ICE custody as they work their way to their final destination, has seen a record number 2,000 releases a week.

Late on the night of December 22, ICE officials dropped off 211 immigrant families who had passed through custody at a Downtown Greyhound station without notifying Annunciation House, which is the procedure that has been honored in the past by the government.

Currently, asylum-seeking migrants are turning themselves in to Border Patrol in mass numbers. The San Diego Border Patrol sector is still holding a tight line on entries after the highly publicized “migrant caravan” made its way to Tijuana in early December.

In contrast, the El Paso Border Patrol sector has been allowing what they call ‘metered entry’ at local ports of entry.

Typically taking about 60 asylum seeking migrants into processing per day. Other migrants will turn themselves in to Border Patrol in desolate areas where ports are not accessible for hundreds of miles.

Once in custody, adults are vetted to ensure they have no prior removal orders from the U.S. Government, and have no known criminal ties to gangs in Central America. Those who are suspect because of tattoos or other markings are separated from the asylum-seekers and kept in long term detention at area prisons, jails or Border Patrol custody.

Single men are also separated and detained in this manner.

Those who are entering with children, whether they are men or women, are allowed to be released into the custody of a “sponsor” after they are fitted with ankle monitors. The sponsors are everywhere in the country and are typically family members or close friends.

On one recent visit to an Annunciation House shelter, the Herald Post met with Honduran and Guatemalan families who were heading to Nebraska, South Carolina, Florida, New Jersey, and other locations across Texas.

Typically, the asylum seekers are held in ICE detention for a maximum 72-hour period before being released to a local Non-Governmental Organization (NGO); in El Paso, that’s Annunciation House. In recent weeks, the population has surged in ICE detention centers and migrants are now being held anywhere between 4-8 days.

In the case of Felix Alonzo-Gomez, the 8-year-old Guatemalan child who died in ICE custody Christmas Eve in Alamogordo, the El Paso-area detention centers were so overpopulated that his family was moved to a Border Patrol Station outside of Alamogordo, NM.

Once released by ICE, the migrants are housed anywhere from 24-48 hours by Annunciation House in El Paso while their sponsors can secure bus or plane tickets to get them to their final destination. Once there, they will check in with a local office and await court proceedings. It acts as a sort of an underground railroad through the Sun City.

The hospitality sites are known to many, but revealed by few. Safety is a top concern to Annunciation House and their volunteers.

What became apparent in El Paso this week is the overwhelming number coming in to seek asylum is overwhelming ICE at their detention facilities and local NGO partners like Annunciation House, who are struggling to get migrants on to their final location before more are released the following day.

Ruben Garcia with Annunciation House said they received 522 migrants on December 26, an all-time record number for the center in his 40-plus year history with the organization. Thursday, Annunciation House received an additional 322.

In a statement to the El Paso Herald Post, ICE blamed inaction by Congress and attempts to stay in compliance with federal laws for detaining families as a reason for this sudden action.

“After decades of inaction by Congress, the government remains severely constrained in its ability to detain and promptly remove families with no legal basis to remain in the U.S. To mitigate the risk of holding family units past the timeframe allotted to the government, ICE has curtailed reviews of post-release plans from families apprehended at the southwest border. ICE is redoubling its efforts to work with local and state officials and NGO partners in the area so they are prepared to provide assistance with transportation and other services,” the statement read.

Congresswoman-elect Veronica Escobar has been in contact with ICE officials, including several phone calls on Christmas Eve to help coordinate transfers from ICE into Annunciation House custody. In the past, she said ICE worked to locate additional emergency detention space in order for NGOs to have room for the released family units. That practice is no longer an option, ICE told her.

As a result, more than 1,600 migrants have been released into the streets of El Paso since Sunday afternoon, with more expected in the coming days. Annunciation House has activated 15 hospitality sites including four hotels in El Paso and an additional 5 hospitality sites in Las Cruces, according to Garcia.

In an effort to mitigate the high population in detention holding cells by ICE, Garcia is working to increase capacity to 3,000 per week in El Paso. The increase represents a 50% increase in population housed by Annunciation House in the El Paso area.

During one of this week’s massive releases of migrants in Downtown El Paso, the Herald Post encountered many children who were battling colds or fevers. One child had pink-eye. Organizers on the ground tell us they have been seeing an increase in these sorts of illnesses when migrants are being released.

Most of the children had been in ICE custody for over a week before coming down with illnesses. Annunciation House is working with volunteer nurses and doctors to provide basic medical care and screening at each hospitality site.

Annunciation House operates 100% off of donations and is not funded by any government funding. Anyone wishing to make financial donations is asked to do so on their website.

At this time, Annunciation House is asking local organizations or church groups who are able to volunteer as a group to feed migrants at one of their hospitality sites contact them at refugees@annunciationhouse.org.

More Migrants Dropped Off in Downtown Monday Afternoon; 200+ More Expected Tonight

According to Herald Post Reporter Andra Litton, shortly after 2 p.m. Monday Afternoon, Immigration and Customs Enforcement dropped off an unknown number of migrants at the Downtown El Paso Greyhound Bus Station.

Officials with Annunciation House had expected another 200 migrants tonight, however the group dropped off at the bus station was not included in that total.

For those residents wishing to help,  Annunciation House, has been the organization at the forefront of helping the migrants, with shelter, food and assistance in getting to their final destination. To donate, visit their website 

Reporter Andra Litton spoke with Rep. Beto O’Rourke and Dylan Corbett w/Hope Border Institute in Downtown El Paso

**This is a developing story and will be updated as information becomes available**  PREVIOUS STORIES BELOW 

**story update from 1:35p

Via a Facebook post Monday afternoon, Ruben Garcia with Annunciation House, updated the community on the migrant situation and what types of specific donations are needed at this time.

Annunciation House—and our network of partner organizations and volunteers—is providing hospitality to the 200+ refugees who were dropped off by ICE last night at the Greyhound Station with no advanced notice. This is in addition to our ongoing work with planned refugee releases. Annunciation House has been very grateful for the community’s rapid response in meeting the urgent needs of this vulnerable population. Here are some of the ways you can help:

-Financial Donations: these allow us the most flexibility in meeting the diverse needs of our guests. We use financial donations to pay for the motels we are renting out to provide overflow shelter. We buy extra food when donations falter. We buy cleaning supplies and gas for our vehicles. We buy prescriptions for our guests and respond to urgent medical needs. Please consider donating at https://annunciationhouse.org/financial-donations/

-Clothing: WE ARE NOT ACCEPTING DONATIONS OF USED CLOTHING. While we appreciate your generosity, we simply do not have the space or person-power to receive, sort, and store used clothing donations. They will not be accepted. We ask that you please respect our wishes and direct your used clothing donations elsewhere. If we ever start to run low on these donations, Annunciation House *directly* will put out a call to the community

-Donations: We are accepting donations of NEW underwear, bras, and socks in sizes small & medium for men, women, and children. We are also accepting donations of boxes of fresh fruit, especially apples, tangerines/oranges, and bananas. These can be brought from 8am-8pm to 1003 E San Antonio Ave, El Paso, TX 79901

-Meals: We need organized groups (usually church groups) willing to bring prepared meals to our various houses of hospitality to feed groups of 50-100 refugees. If you are a member of such a group that is interested, please email us with some basic information about your group and your availability at refugees@annunciationhouse.org

-Volunteers: We are in need of volunteers, especially those willing to drive folks to the bus station and airport. If you are already volunteering, please contact your usual point of contact to inquire if additional help is needed. If you are not currently volunteering with us, please email us so that we can do a basic screening process: refugees@annunciationhouse.org. Please have patience with us in trying to respond as quickly as possibly and please understand that volunteers who show up unannounced will generally not be accepted.

Thank you again so much for your generosity and willingness to Welcome the Stranger, especially during this holiday season.

***story from 1030a

More than 200 migrants claiming asylum were dropped off at El Paso’s Downtown Greyhound station just after 8 p.m. Sunday night by Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.

The move came as a shock to local immigrant advocacy groups who were not notified ahead of time that a need for shelter for that many people was needed.

KFOX-TV was the first to report the unexpected surge at the local Greyhound on the corner of Overland and Santa Fe Streets late Sunday evening.

Within an hour, El Paso Police had been called in to help control the crowd and local El Pasoans arrived with food, water and supplies for the migrants. The migrants were all from South America, most from Guatemala and Honduras. All of the adult migrants were traveling with children and most said they hadn’t eaten all day when ICE released them in Downtown El Paso.

Typically, ICE coordinates with local non-profit Annunciation House to secure the beds needed before releasing migrants. Sunday, however, Ruben Garcia with Annunciation House was notified that a need for 300 beds was needed. Garcia said he only had space for 200 migrants at their existing facilities due to the slowed holiday Greyhound bus schedules. As a result, Garcia welcomed the 200 migrants earlier in the afternoon to Annunciation House shelter locations throughout the city.

It wasn’t until 8 p.m. that Garcia and other local organizations were notified of the additional 211 migrants who had been left in Downtown. The large drop off forced immigration advocates and county leaders to spring into action to secure housing for the group.

Garcia, along with the El Paso City County Office of Emergency Management, County Judge Ruben Vogt and Dylan Corbett with the Hope Border Institute had five Sun Metro buses brought to the Greyhound Station to keep the migrants, many of whom were small children, warm while they attempted to secure a long-term shelter for them.

By 1 a.m. the Downtown group had been sent to two emergency locations in El Paso where Garcia says they’re expected to stay for at least two days. Migrants who are released by ICE in El Paso have sponsors, usually family or friends, in other parts of the country who will purchase bus or plane tickets to get them to their final destination within a day.

Due to the holiday bus schedules, Greyhound was booked through Christmas. The longer bus wait times means more migrants will be forced to stay in El Paso at the emergency shelters for the next two days according to Garcia.

A recent surge of asylum claims at the El Paso Ports of Entry are creating a strain on local non-profits working to assist the migrants as they travel through El Paso. Garcia previously told the El Paso Herald Post that more than 2,000 migrants a week were being processed by Annunciation House in the last two months.

Garcia told the Herald Post that in total, more than 400 migrants were released by ICE on December 23 alone. All were expected to need shelter for several days.

An attempt to reach ICE for public comment late Sunday night was unsuccessful after an auto-reply e-mail was sent stating that the public information officers were on furlough due to the government shut down and could not be reached for comment until the government reopens.

Congresswoman-elect Veronica Escobar and Congressman Beto O’Rourke along with Ruben Garcia are expected to meet with officials from ICE Monday afternoon to determine what caused the unexpected release of migrants.

If you would like to donate food to the emergency shelter sites, please contact Annunciation House at (915) 545-4509 or the Borderland Rainbow Center at (915) 263-4623. Volunteers who speak Spanish and are able to help at the sites are also needed and can be coordinated through the two contacts listed above.

For those residents wishing to help,  Annunciation House, has been the organization at the forefront of helping the migrants, with shelter, food and assistance in getting to their final destination. To donate, visit their website 

As Migrants Continue Journey Through El Paso, Volunteers Provide Meals, Support

Imagine walking miles, hundreds of miles. From time to time you may get a ride, and someone may give you food. Then, imagine a day with nothing to eat, no ride, and dwindling hope.

This is something none of us may have ever experienced, but it is the daily reality of thousands of people who have made their way to the border, hoping to gain asylum and become United States Citizens.

Something else for you to imagine. You are admitted to the United States. You are granted status and are free to head to whatever city your family is in, but what do you in the meantime until your bus or plane leaves? Where do you stay? What do you eat? What about your children? What will you do for them?

That’s where people like Ruben Garcia of Annunciation House and Father Joseph Hector Abouid of St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church, and others, step in to fill the gap.

I recently met with Rubin Garcia, before I assisted Fr. Abouid feed a rag-tag collection of people their evening meal.

As I was standing behind a table, serving noodles with meat sauce, I could see hope, appreciation and a sense of wariness in the eyes of each man, woman and child. Here they were, not so much worrying about themselves, and what they would eat, as much as they were worried about each other, their children, and family members who are still south of the border, and those they were heading to join here in America.

As Father Abouid said the blessing for the meal you couldn’t help but feel that each person there, laboring to serve, was following the words of Jesus Christ as found in Matthew 25:34-40:

“Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave me food, I was naked, and you clothed me, I was sick, and you visited me, I was in prison, and you came to me.” Then the righteous will answer him saying “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?” And the King will answer them, Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”

We need to take this wise counsel to heart and apply it, now and in the future. The reality is, regardless of what you see on Fox news, migrants are being admitted to the United States, and are being allowed to join their families.

“People are always asking me what we need,” says Garcia of Annunciation House. “You cannot receive 2,000 people a week and not have a lot of needs in terms of food, toothbrushes, pampers, and care packages. But, all of that comes in. In other words, it comes in.”

There may be a time when, according to Ruben, some of what they need may be in short supply, but it does arrive.

El Paso, Las Cruces, both are very caring communities, and more and more people are willing to give of what they must share with those who have made the long, arduous journey to get the United States.

“The greatest needs is for venues, for churches that would seriously consider receiving refugees. Even one day out of the week” says Ruben.

El Paso and Las Cruces are both communities of great faith. There are Churches of every hue and denomination with space to spare. Why not use some of that space?

We must learn to live our faith beyond the walls of the church, beyond what we are normally comfortable with. It’s easy to help, to give when it’s a member of your congregation. We know that person, their past, and are connected to them. But Jesus did call us to serve not just our family, our friends, but everyone – everyone, regardless of where they are from or what their socioeconomic status may be. We can and should help.

Why does Father Joseph Hector Abouid of St George Antiochian Orthodox Church feel it’s important that their church help?

“The importance for my Church to be involved in feeding these people is best explained in the parable Jesus Christ Himself used: the Good Samaritan,” says Father Abouid. “Serving them is understanding the message of the aforementioned Parable. Samaritans were deemed impure by the People of Israel; second-class citizens or worse. They were Jews mixed with gentiles. They were not welcomed by the Jews, and if any Jew was caught dealing with one, he himself becomes unclean.”

Father Abouid has a point. We’ve come to a point where we’ve begun to vilify people who are wanting to come into the United States. Xenophobia is on the rise, and those south of our border have become the new “Samaritans.”

“It is true, we did not ask them to come, they came here voluntarily, and there are so many needy already in our society But, when asked to help, is it okay to turn a blind eye and be dismissive?” asks Father Abouid. “Are we faithful to the message Christ conveyed to us through the parable of the Good Samaritan? We were asked to help the cause, and by serving them a meal, we are just enacting the message of the Gospel itself. Also, providing them a meal, we are helping the government itself! The government is overloaded and is reaching out to the churches to help! If we disagree with the religious aspect of this cause, are we to disregard the patriotic aspect attached to it? By helping this cause, we are helping the government itself deal with this sudden crisis.”

What can churches do to help house someone in need? According to Garcia, there is a lot.

“You can look at what space we have here at the church and see if we can put cots or air mattresses on the floor. Maybe they can receive 40-50 refugees for even one night.”

What happens, according to Garcia, is that they would arrive in the late afternoon. The next day many of them begin to leave and head for the homes of family and friends in other parts of the country. For example, if you were to take a group in on Tuesday, the next day Annunciation House would begin the process of getting them to their families.

By Thursday, Friday at the latest, they would all have moved on and begun their journey to their homes, with family and friends in different parts of the country.

“So, for a Church that helps, this isn’t like a full-time thing. We are not going to do this full time. You would receive one day out of the week,” says Ruben Garcia. “We think we can surface the volunteers from our own faith communities, people that will come and help staff and received them and provide the meals. That is, in fact, the greatest need. Everything else will come, I promise you.”

Garcia calls this a surge, the people coming here to the United States. It’s not new, and it’s happened before. This is the fourth one since 2014.

“Looking back, historically, there is going to come a time when it begins to diminish,” says Ruben Garcia speaking of this current surge.
“So, if there are any churches out there that you know, please ask them if they can help,” says Ruben.

I join him in that plea. These are human beings. These are people who have been admitted, by Border Patrol, by ICE into the United States. They are no different than you or me. They are people with hopes and dreams of chasing the American Dream. Why not give them that chance?

“I encourage everyone to at least come down and help at least once!” says Father Abouid. “Don’t just jump into conclusions based on what you see on tv about these migrants. Come and help, and then, make your own determination about whether it is a just cause or not. And remember, our civil authorities need of our help as well, and they appreciate our support; even if it is by simply serving one meal a week.”

***

If you can volunteer, if you can provide space or serve meals, then get in contact with Annunciation House at refugees@annunciationhouse.org

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