Separating Children from their Families
For La Posada, the present immigration policy of separating children from their families at the Border goes against our values as a faith-based and humanitarian organization. In response to the many questions from donors and friends as to what can be done, we strongly recommend that you contact your elected officials to express your views.
For nearly 30 years La Posada Providencia has followed the gospel mandate to welcome the stranger. During that time, we have had the privilege of assisting men, women and children from 86 countries around the world. To review some of their testimonials and to learn more about what we do, please visit our website: www.lppshelter.org/who-we-help/.
From time to time we receive updates on past clients. Recently, we received one about a family we helped in 2015. This update came to us from Winter Texan Kathy Whittier. To protect the identity of the family; their names have been changed. Sadly, we cannot publish pictures of the family showing faces for fear they might get back to Eritrea, endangering the family’s safety.
In March 2015, Emily and Emmanuel, with their three boys, arrived at the McAllen border station seeking asylum. They had been traveling for over a year from their war-torn homeland of Eritrea, in Africa. They fled for their lives, first by plane to South Africa, then to Panama. What followed was 9 months to travel by bus, taxi, horse, walking or hitchhiking to get to McAllen. This was quite a trip for the young couple and their three children: Jon, 11 years old; Jake, 10 years old; and Jackson, one. While their case was being considered, Emmanuel was detained; Emily and her three boys were taken to Sacred Heart Respite Center in McAllen. That’s where I met them. My friend, Cynthia, who volunteers for the Red Cross and worked in the soup kitchen at the Respite Center, brought the plight of this family to my attention.
Emily and the boys had spent over a week at the Respite Center, having no idea where her husband and the father of her three boys was or what the status was of their application for asylum. The Respite Center is designed for short stays only, so my husband, David and I took them to La Posada Providencia, in San Benito. There Emily was able to connect with her husband who was at the Port Isabel Detention Center. I was privileged to take Emily and the boys to visit him, and it was wonderful to see them reunited, even if it was through glass.
La Posada Client Coordinator, Monica Rasmussen, said it could take months or years for them to get an answer on their asylum status. In the meantime, she looked for a place for them to settle. All the agencies tapped in Texas couldn’t help them resettle; they were overloaded. Fortunately, after a couple months, the family was granted asylum, Emmanuel was released, and they were free to settle anywhere. Catholic Charities in Maine took their case and helped them resettle in Maine, near Portland. David and I took them to many different agencies and locations to help them with their resettlement. Catholic Charities assisted them with housing and other assistance for the first three months. Since then, the family has been self-supporting, with both parents working shifts and taking turns with daycare.
The family has now grown with a fourth boy, Jesse. He was born in Portland, Maine. Emily has a full-time job as health care worker and has full health care benefits for the family. They are very grateful to all who helped them in many ways. St. Peter & St. Paul Episcopal Church in Mission, Texas is where I worship. Many of the members responded to my appeal for help as did my church in Maine, Christ Episcopal Church, Norway, Maine. Donations received went to transportation for the family from Texas to Maine and other resettlement costs. Donations of clothes and prayers were much appreciated.
I see the family in the summers when I am home in Maine. Jon and Jake are doing well in school and speak beautiful English. They are part of a Christian church where they have met other Africans. Emily, who already spoke good English, French, Italian, Arabic and Eritrean, has become much more fluent in English. This is a happy, loving family, so thankful to live where they do not have to walk their children by bodies in the street. I’ll bet one of their sons will grow up to be a doctor!