Central American Refugees

Could Loaves and Fishes Change The Immigration Dilemma?

Generosity with loaves and fishes. Image courtesy Antonio Gravante/shutterstock.
Generosity with loaves and fishes. Image courtesy Antonio Gravante/shutterstock.com.

What might happen if we were to look at the two goods of protection and hospitality not as competing goods in a world of scarcity, but as complimentary goods in a world of abundance? I think we might come up with new solutions that no one has yet imagined.

In June, reporters for The Washington Post described deplorable detention conditions of the border patrol station in McAllen, Texas.

“The sick are separated by flimsy strips of yellow police tape from the crying babies and expectant mothers. They subsist on bologna sandwiches and tacos, with portable toilets and no showers, and their wait can last for days," they wrote. 

Soon after, President Obama declared a “humanitarian crisis” at the Mexico-U.S. border, citing a massive increase of undocumented children from Central America crossing the border. Without enough resources to house and care for the tens of thousands of children while they wait for an immigration hearing, the border patrol has been overwhelmed.

When Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson visited the station in May, he asked one young girl, “Where’s your mother?”

“I don’t have a mother,” she replied tearfully.

Central American Refugee Crisis at the Border—How You Can Help

Helping hands. Image courtesy Dr.G/shutterstock.com.
Helping hands. Image courtesy Dr.G/shutterstock.com.

The overwhelming concern and support among the faith community for these Central American refugees has been a huge blessing for these children both at the national and local level. If you are wondering how you can help with this urgent need, here are some options on where you can donate your money or time.

A View From the Bus Station

Image of a bus. Image courtesy phipatbig/shutterstock.com
Image of a bus. Image courtesy phipatbig/shutterstock.com

“The United States is wonderful,” said one woman, after I helped get her oriented to what buses she would take from Tucson to Florida, gave food and snacks to her and her 8- and 9-year-old sons, and helped her find sweaters and a blanket to stay warm through the inevitably extreme air conditioning of the buses. In that moment, I thought about other U.S. towns passing laws to keep people like her out and protesters angrily blocking buses full of unaccompanied minors or mothers and their children. 

The Trials Of Faith

PHILIP WILLIS-CONGER is former director of the Tucson Ecumenical Council's Task Force on Central American refugees. At the time of the interview, he was a United Methodist and he and his wife, Ellen, planned to enter the Pacific School of Religion and the San Francisco Theological Seminary, respectively, as soon as legal proceedings allowed. --The Editors

Sojourners: How have you felt about the trial? What have been your impressions?

Philip Willis-Conger: They've run the gamut. In good times I really appreciate all the learning I am doing during this process. But there have been a few really bad times in which I've felt like I have to get out, to escape.

What has impressed me about the trial itself is what a farce it has been. There doesn't seem to be any semblance of impartiality on the part of the judge. But that has developed a climate here in Tucson where there's a general feeling or awareness that the judge is biased, so that people who weren't interested in sanctuary, or were even against it, have become concerned that we're not getting a fair trial. And that has raised their consciousness level.

It's been a real shame that during the course of the trial we have not really dealt with the major issue. The basic issue isn't how our lawyers interact with the judge, or what Jesus Cruz, the informant, says on the stand. The issue is: Who are these people who are fleeing Central America? Are they persecuted? Do they have a right to asylum here? Is the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) breaking the law by not allowing them to apply for asylum at the border? Do church people have the right to respond affirmatively when their government breaks its own laws? These are some of the more central questions.

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