“It says in our Old Testament texts to treat refugees like your blood, and so I am not interested in politics,” Rogers says. “I’m interested that we as people can learn to embrace the immigrant.”
Other Groups Offering Assistance
Portions of the caravan have been on the road for a month now. Groups assisting the refugees include the Mexican government, the United Nations and various church groups.
Mexico’s government reports issuing 2,697 temporary visas that will cover refugees during the 45-day application process required to obtain more permanent status. The Mexican Secretary of Foreign Affairs, in conjunction with IOM, the United Nations Migration Agency, has provided food and basic hygiene kits to more than 1,500 asylum-seekers.
Christopher Gascon, U.N. Migration’s Chief of Mission in Mexico, says the organization “maintains its position that the human rights and basic needs of all migrants must be respected, regardless of their migratory status.” Another IOM official, however, expresses concerns about “the stress and demands that caravans place on the humanitarian community and the asylum systems of receiving countries.”
As U.S. government officials talk of amassing troops to protect the southern border, church groups are rallying resources to offer refugees assistance. Christ United Methodist Church in San Diego launched a Safe Harbors Network two years ago to meet refugees’ basic needs. Although the organization is already at full capacity, it’s asking for more help so it can continue to “provide basic human kindness.”
In the Texas border town of El Paso, volunteers are flocking to shelters run by Annunciation House, a group of local churches providing food and shelter for migrants after they’re released by U.S. customs officials. To reduce the number of people placed in holding cells, Annunciation House has been renting out motel rooms for refugees.
A shelter at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in McAllen, Texas, now welcomes about 500 migrants daily, up from 150 per day during the summer. “I am accepting everybody that’s being released,” says Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley. “Border Patrol has been very good about sending [migrants] out in groups of not more than 500 so we can manage it as best we can.”
Responding to claims that the migrant caravan represents an “invasion,” U.S. Catholic leaders said in a recent statement that “seeking asylum is not a crime.”