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Lupita Ortiz, Inland Empire: “A Call to Action”

A message from Lupita Ortiz, IM4HI Board member

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, an IM4HI partner organization, 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 a local 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 incoming 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 at the Catholic Cathedral. 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?

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Cecilia Vasquez, Southern California: “Faith in Change”

A message from Cecilia Vasquez, Program Assistant for Southern California, Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity

While working as a community organizer in the Inland Empire over the past year, I have seen faith in many forms. I reflect on how faith is a sign of trust. In the Inland Empire we are having families bused from detention centers to churches in San Bernardino and Coachella. These families come to the US with faith that they will find the pieces they were missing in their homelands; whether the missing pieces are shelter from harm, monetary, or opportunities. These individuals and families are coming to the US trusting their faith in human kindness and for a better tomorrow. I saw this in a young girl I met in Coachella that traveled from Guatemala to the US. Her and her father traveled on the “La Bestia”, or also known as “El Tren de la Muerte” (train of death), to arrive to the US. This young girl has stood witness to many of the horrors and realities of immigrating to the US, but despite seeing these travesties, she has faith that better things are ahead.

Those that are mobilizing to support the families being left in the Inland Empire churches, are also acting in faith. They volunteer with faith that they can create change in immigration policies. They act in faith by meeting the immediate needs of the families and individuals who were freed from local detention centers. These needs range from medical needs due to the inhumane living conditions inside of the detention centers, clothing, shelter, and reunification with families in the US. It is moving to see the power and trust in faith. In times where the US government is challenging humanity, these are the times we should embrace that our faith has the power to mobilize the changes we long to see in our communities.

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Hilda Cruz, Inland Empire: “Our Work”

A message from Hilda Cruz, Faith Rooted Organizer, Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity

IM4HI volunteer, Gustavo, picks up asylum seeking woman after months of being detained.

As a faith rooted organizer, I bring people of faith and the larger community together to re-connect to their greatest resource, each other. I invite people to live their faith through concrete actions that will make a difference in someone’s life. I am grateful for the community of people who are truly committed to doing the work of immigrant justice, specifically those seeking asylum. These are the accomplishments of the many volunteers who believe that no one should be detained.

In the Inland Empire, several volunteers drive weekly to visit Adelanto Detention Center and connect with people who are waiting for a final verdict to their immigration cases. Over the past six months, I am happy to share that a total of 25 detained people have been visited. Many of these people are detained asylum seekers who have no connection to the outside and many tell us that we are the first outside people they have seen in months. Many times, the volunteers offer them a connection to outside legal resources, which is invaluable as they strengthen their case for asylum. Of those visited, nine women were released after several months of being detained. Once they were released, people from the visiting groups were able to pick them up, provide them with clothes, lodging, and travel arrangements to their final destination. Two men had bonds fundraised and paid for. Sponsors and hosting families have helped four men for over six months now. Three congregations in this region of the Inland Empire have accompaniment teams walking alongside these newly arrived persons who are thriving with the help of their accompaniment team. No need to explain that the work these congregations are doing is truly faith in action and they are models for community alternatives to detention work.

If you would like to visit asylum seekers in the Adelanto detention center, please contact Hilda Cruz.