For the past five months, Ada Dominguez, OP has been volunteering one day a week to help with the steady flow of people arriving in the United States. She volunteers in Albuquerque at a location coordinated by Albuquerque Interfaith. She is joined in effort and prayer by Sister Eva Silva and Dolorita Martinez, as well as Sisters from other congregations of women religious.
“When Annunciation House in El Paso fills up, we welcome the overflow. U.S. Customs and Border Protection brings buses of 50 people each to locations like ours. There are actually five organizations, including Catholic Charities and Annunciation House, currently coordinating welcome and support points in our city,” says Sister Ada.
According to Sister Ada, traditionally, as migrants and refugees are processed at Border Control points, they receive an ankle monitor and are transferred by bus to transitional service points. “We welcome the men, women, and children from where they have been detained at Customs for weeks. We greet each, provide a nutritious meal, help them pick a change of clothes and shoes donated by residents of our city. Last week, when there were no shoes to fit her, I offered my own shoes to a woman. At first she wouldn’t accept them. My shoes are protecting her feet in New York, now.”
Characterizing these transitions centers, Sister Ada says people arrive for 24-48 hours and we help them contact and arrange for transportation to sponsors: U.S. residents who are typically family and friends.
Other Grand Rapids Dominican Sisters are also lending aid or preparing for mission. Sisters Brigid Clingman, OP and Sylvia Wozniak, OP are in Wichita, Kansas right now assisting the Adorers of the Blood of Christ with the migrants and refugees they are hosting at their Stan Rother Hospitality Center.
The last two weeks of August, Grand Rapids Dominican Sisters Joyce Ann Hertzig, Chela Gonzalez, Mary Kay Oosdyke, and Janet Brown are planning to head to El Paso to help out. According to Sr. Joyce Ann, these plans have become tentative. “Due to the situation in El Paso and the national change in immigration procedures, there is a question as to `help needed’ and `number of persons’ assigned to Annunciation House. We are still on the list to participate but we are aware that our status may change with developing circumstances.”
We Have a Moral Obligation to Protect Children
We recognize, as a moral obligation, the need to protect children fleeing violence or oppression in their homelands. We commit ourselves to act as their advocates in local, national, and international communities. These words lead the Corporate Stance on Unaccompanied Children on the Border issued by the Congregation in 2014.
In June 2018, the Dominican Sisters issued a public statement declaring that “in light of recent practices that are separating children from their families along the border, we continue to be called to raise our voices and advocate for those who need our help and we will continue to be advocates for families caught in the web of our immigration system.”
The family is a foundational element of Catholic teaching and family unity is a cornerstone of our American immigration system. Children are vulnerable and should not be separated from their parents.
Separating parents from their children will not deter families from seeking safety and security in the U.S. Such a policy will not cure the pervasive root causes of migration that exist in Central America and other regions.
Since 2014, we have consistently communicated with our legislators in Washington, D.C. and urged them to recognize the importance of family unity and use their oversight and legislative capabilities to:
- Tell Department of Homeland Security (DHS) not to separate families.
- Prevent DHS from receiving funding for this harmful and costly practice.
- Propose more humane solutions, including alternatives to detention.
- Make humane immigration reform a priority and get it done.
Our work isn’t finished.