Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

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U.S.-Mexico border: Migrants are not criminals

Listen to voices on the border to learn the truth about the life of migrants in need of refuge. The following article was published in the March-APril 219 issue of NewsNotes.

Just as President Trump was touching down in El Paso for his border wall rally on February 11, Annunciation House, the El Paso-based house of hospitality for migrants, held a press conference to allow migrants to speak for themselves and “provide a more truthful narrative reflecting the reality of refugees on our border.” 

The message was clear: migrants are not criminals.

Ruben Garcia, Executive Director and founder of Annunciation House, lead the press conference which was his first since last June, when Annunciation House served as the center of a massive operation to meet the urgent needs of thousands of parents and children recently reunited and released by U.S. Border Patrol. 

“The separation of children from their parents continues,” a statement released before the press conference reads. “The narrative that refugees and immigrants are criminals is not true. Annunciation House and our partner organizations and faith communities have been providing hospitality to thousands of these families every week. The idea that refugees and immigrants make our country dangerous is not true. Rather, the truth is that they overwhelmingly become productive, contributing citizens of our community and of our country.”

The speakers included:

  • A mother from Honduras forcibly separated for over 115 days from her three and four-year-old daughters by Border Patrol Agents on October 11, 2018.
  • A newly-arrived parent who fled violence and persecution in Central America to lawfully seek asylum in the United States. 
  • A former refugee who was granted asylum in the United States and who has since become a valued member of our vibrant border community. 

“I’m a mother and I don’t know what people see when they look at me, if they see a criminal,” one speaker said. “All I want to do is protect and save my family.”

“If I had to do it all over again I’d do it again,” the mother went on to say, “because it was for the wellbeing of my daughters. It’s my responsibility to fight for my daughters. I’m going to fight for my daughters no matter what happens.”

The 30-minute press conference was live streamed on Facebook and a recording is available at http://bit.ly/AnnunciationHouse02112019 

A Record High

Local press reported on February 23 that a record number of migrants was released to Annunciation House in the week of February 17-23 – a total of 3,637. This is higher than any number in the 40-plus year history of Annunciation House, Garcia said.

Garcia said he expects the numbers to rise in the upcoming weeks as the weather warms and allows for easier travel through Central America and Mexico. The high number of migrants released by federal officials in El Paso is coupled with an extremely high number of migrants waiting for processing in Juarez. Also in February, officials in Coahuila, Mexico, transferred more than 300 migrants waiting for entrance into the U.S. to Juarez. The move angered Juarez mayor Armando Cabada who threatened to sue the state of Coahuila.  

The record 3,637 migrants were housed at 15 to 16 hospitality centers in El Paso and Las Cruces. The increase has caused an increased strain on the organization which has been dealing with an increased number of migrants being released since 2018. 

Donations Needed

Annunciation House is urgently asking for monetary donations through their website at https://annunciationhouse.org  (click on Donate). In addition to monetary donations, they are also in desperate need of organizations or large groups willing to prepare meals for large numbers of migrants as well as long-term Spanish speaking volunteers. To learn more, visit https://annunciationhouse.org/volunteer/  or email volunteercoordinator@annunciationhouse.org .

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