Asylum Seeker Assistance

The El Paso District responding to the needs of Asylum Seekers in the Borderlands

Asylum Seekers at El Calvario UMC-Las Cruces

History:  Legal Asylum Seekers coming across the southern border into the El Paso/Las Cruces area is certainly nothing new. Annunciation House, in collaboration with churches across denominations, including the UMC, have been reaching out to “the stranger” since the 1970’s. El Calvario UMC, Las Cruces was repurposed to serve asylum seekers on a weekly basis beginning in early 2018. Tobin Park UMC, El Paso is outfitted to serve asylum seekers, and received families on a weekly basis until recently. The number of refugees overall fluctuates, but the churches and organizations in the El Paso/Las Cruces area have experienced recent periods of dramatic increase and strain on their resources followed by the need moving elsewhere.

Remain in Mexico Implications: The decrease that we are seeing today is related in part to the Remain in Mexico policy, more formerly known as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP). With this policy, many asylum seekers are being returned to Mexico to await their court dates associated with their asylum cases.  They may need housing for 3-4 months. In Juarez alone, 8,000 migrants have been enrolled in the Remain in Mexico program. The shelter of our sister denomination, the Methodist Church, is housing 130 people in a space designed to shelter less than 50.

Mexico Visits:  On Aug. 20th, a group of ~20 people traveled to Juarez on a fact-finding and prayer vigil visit.  On Sept. 28th, a work day is planned to paint the facilities. To join the group, contact Nicole Crouch – deacon.ncrouch@gmail.com.  On November 21-23, a Borderlands Summit will convene including national UMC task force representatives and bishops to tour facilities and conditions on both sides of the border.  Bishop Bledsoe and the El Paso District will host this gathering.

Strategically Moving Forward: On Sept. 8th, the Borderland Hospitality House held its first board meeting.  This is our effort to establish a permanent shelter facility for overflow space, should we need to shelter asylum seekers again and to re-establish relationships and ministry in the Segundo Barrio.  The El Paso District, with the support of the Conference has endeavored to create a local Justice for our Neighbors (JFON) site.  They have been communicating throughout the district to find members who would like to serve on the Board.  If you are interested, please contact Nicole Crouch at deacon.ncrouch@gmail.com.

Who are we serving? The majority of the asylum seekers our churches serve are single parents traveling with small children from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico, who are escaping horrible poverty and violence by taking the long, dangerous journey to the U.S.  The U.S. Government has requested that we join with other organizations to house these families for a few days while we assist them in making travel arrangements to reunite with their sponsors, and we hope to show them the love of Christ as we meet their health, hygiene and comfort needs for their short stay.

How can you help?
“We are preparing for a long commitment so, above all things, we need your prayers for all those who are part of this ministry: the asylum seekers, our Government agencies, our church-related shelters, every volunteer, and those in leadership of these efforts.”  El Paso District DS, Rev. Eddie Rivera

Financial Donations: Please send your donations to the NM Conference Office.
Griselda Sandoval, Treasurer, 11816 Lomas Blvd. NE, ABQ 87112.  Churches may use the online payment dropdown menu.

Supplies:

Winter Clothing: Donations of sweatshirts and cold weather clothing (coats, hats, scarves, gloves) are also appreciated and can be brought to St. Paul’s on Sept 28. Please contact Nicole with any questions or concerns.

There are basically 3 categories of items:
a. General Donation Items
b. Travel & Personal Packs
c. Snack Packs

They can be assembled personally or at local churches and donated. Otherwise, all of these items, along with the General items can also be separately donated individually or in bulk quantities.

You may also donate to El Calvario UMC online through their Amazon Wish List: Click here.

Volunteers:
If you speak Spanish, have medical training or drive a large multiple passenger vehicle, you are greatly needed.  The people in Las Cruces & El Paso have been serving this need for many months and would love new volunteers to join them in this ministry of welcoming the stranger.  If you do not fit these parameters, your help is also needed to clean, cook, sort supplies, transport people, etc.

Tobin Park: Tobin Park is currently NOT receiving asylum seekers.  Contact: Bob Hedicke, Tobin Park Site Manager, to make arrangements by phone at 915-490-1001 or email rhedicke@earthlink.net.

El Calvario:  With the decrease in guests, volunteers are renovating, stocking and generally bringing the facility up to code.  To volunteer at El Calvario in Las Cruces, contact Susana Torres, Volunteer Coordinator and Admin Officer, at 575-524-1230 or zuziettorres@gmail.com.