A message from Lupita Ortiz, Board member, Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity
About a month ago, I witnessed a humanitarian crisis when asylum seekers were being dropped, by the border patrol at the bus station in downtown San Bernardino. According to the Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice (ICIJ) 600 people were released during 16 days (adults, youth, and children). On May 15, 2019 (after our Pastoral Council meeting) my husband Jaime and I accompanied our priest to the bus station to offer shelter to a group of asylum seekers that were expected to arrive at the bus station. That night we picked up, fed and sheltered 9 persons from Honduras and Guatemala at the church (within the group were two children under 5 years old and two ladies that could only speak a Guatemalan native language). The following day, the Catholic Cathedral had become the shelter for the immigrant families. I joined the welcoming team and made daily visits to assist in whatever the need was. From coordinating volunteers, to guiding families to their showers, washing blankets, etc. I called on some volunteers from St. Bernardine’s Catholic Church and organized to provide dinner for 85 people. I offered to organize activity tables for the children, such as coloring and crafts. As a first responder, I witnessed how the community came together to welcome, shelter, and feed the disoriented immigrant families. This was an experience that enriched me and reinforced my faith and desire to be part of a movement that envisions and works towards “human integrity” through faith.
I invite the reader, especially people of faith, to stay informed and to be aware that the media coverage is not always accurate. For example, some reporters referred to them as ‘illegal aliens” instead of asylum seekers that are waiting for a legal process that will either grant them asylum or will return them back to their country. I believe that false news and the negative stereotypes create fear and confusion that result in negative reactions and prejudice from many people.
In my interaction with the immigrant families, I listened to heartbreaking stories from men, women, and children. A 17 year old Guatemalan girl shared that she graduated as an accountant, but she could not find a job in her country (Note: the working age is 18-25; this is one of the main factors for which many migrate to the U. S.). I also learned about the larger worldwide humanitarian crisis that we don’t hear about in the media. A story that echoed was that the caravans did not only consist of people coming from Central America, “There were people from Korea, India, South America, Cuba and Haiti” (asylum seekers). Nevertheless, the only coverage that most of us have seen in traditional media outlets are from Central American asylum seekers. In conclusion, my call to action to you on behalf of these asylum seekers ends with a question that I often ask myself, as a practicing catholic.
How are you being called to place your faith into action?