Thursday, November 08, 2018

Meanwhile, down on the border

America is a welcoming country. And under my leadership, it’s a welcoming country. We lead the world in humanitarian protection and assistance, by far. There’s nobody even close. We have the largest and most expansive immigration programs anywhere on the planet.
And we will end catch-and-release. We’re not releasing any longer.

We're all paying attention to Trump's explosions in the White House and the fate of Jim Acosta; meanwhile, in the lives of people who don't get in front of a TV camera daily:

Outside El Paso, at the Holy Cross Retreat Center in Mesilla Park, N.M., volunteers recently lined up to greet a bus of migrant families being dropped off by ICE. About 20 parents and children stepped off the bus. A volunteer named Orlando Carrillo Jiménez ushered them into the retreat center.

Jiménez has a big personality and booming voice — he's a mariachi singer — and he cracks jokes to put the group at ease. He first welcomed them to the United States and apologized for what they had gone through with immigration officials. Then he explained what was about to happen. First, they would eat dinner — a hot, homemade meal. Next, they would receive medical evaluations. These families just completed long, sometimes treacherous journeys; adults and children alike may need medical attention.

After that, volunteers would help them make travel arrangements so they could get to their final destinations, usually with relatives in other parts of the country. Finally, the guests, as Jiménez calls them, could settle into their rooms.

Jiménez has this down to a science. He has done this nearly every week for the past two years, when Holy Cross started taking in migrant families.

"All these people are requesting asylum at the border," explained Father Tom Smith, the director of the Holy Cross Retreat Center. "They are seeking asylum because of the danger or the extreme poverty or whatever it is that they're dealing with in their own country. I just think it's important that we recognize that we are called to welcome the stranger."

The families typically stay for one or two nights before taking a bus or catching a flight to join their sponsors.

Holy Cross is part of a larger network of churches in El Paso and southern New Mexico that briefly house immigrants who have been released from custody.
People are coming across the border in record numbers, and ICE can't contain them as they would wish (stupid interfering courts and their laws!), so ICE and the Border Patrol have decided:  "Fuck 'em!"  Do you think I exaggerate?

In a statement, ICE Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Rodriguez said, "family units continue to cross the border at high volumes, as they face no consequence for their actions." She explained, because of legal limits on how long the agency can hold families, it no longer has the capacity to review and help with travel plans.

What does that look like on the ground?

Annunciation House, an immigrant shelter in El Paso, coordinates with ICE and these so-called hospitality centers, to ensure that families have a place to stay. The recent releases, however, have at times come with no coordination at all between ICE and the shelters for migrants.

Last weekend, ICE dropped about 100 immigrants at a Greyhound station in downtown El Paso with no advance notice. Annunciation House director Ruben Garcia got word of the imminent release and hurried over to meet the migrants. He quickly arranged for a nearby church to house the families and walked them there himself. Now Garcia is meeting with local officials to find more hospitality venues and volunteers.

Annunciation House is renting out 70 motel rooms in El Paso to help house families. The Catholic Diocese of El Paso set up an emergency shelter, with dozens of cots.

State Senator José Rodríguez represents El Paso. "I think it's unconscionable," he says. "Now they're just simply dumping them here in the border communities like El Paso and expecting the community to provide the support services." 
But it's not happening on camera or to a CNN employee or somewhere in the area of D.C., so who cares, right?

At the Holy Cross Retreat Center, where 20 immigrants had just arrived, the scene was controlled chaos. Volunteer Orlando Jiménez tried to figure out how to get a Guatemalan father and child to their sponsor in South Carolina. He called up the sponsor on a cell phone and a bus company on a landline, all while looking up airfares and tossing the father pumpkin candies for his kid.

Jiménez took a moment to reflect. "This is not fake news, quote unquote," he said, his voice starting to crack. "And that's the only political statement I'm gonna make, is that this is not fake news. This is real. These are real peoples' lives. These are not numbers. This is not a caravan. These are actual, real people that need our help."

We have met the enemy, and he is us.  We should be ashamed as a nation that our government is denying all responsibility for these people simply because it can't treat them as animals.  I no longer care who won on Tuesday or what they will do about Trump's tax returns in January.  The military even no longer cares to label its 5000 troops as an "Operation."  What are those 5000 troops doing to help house these human beings seeking our help?  What are we doing?  Do we even know?

1 comment:

  1. What are those troops doing? Mainly installing concertina wire, whose purpose in the West has always been to make sure that undesirable perso, or animal - or persons thought of as animals - would be kept out at any cost, often meaning at the cost of their lives.

    You’re exactly right, the enemy is us. God forgive us.