Note: The ideas and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the authors' and should not be ascribed to the Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes or its members. On August 5, 2021, we archived old blog posts. You can find the archive by clicking here.
CSA Sister prepares for hundreds of asylum-seeking guests daily
The Title 42 expulsion policy that was put in place in March 2020 to bar immigrants from entering the U.S., including those seeking asylum, will end on May 11, 2023. The Biden administration is making plans to send an additional 1,500 active-duty troops to the US-Mexico border in anticipation of an influx of migrants when the Title 42 public health authority expires next week. The troops are to serve in administrative roles and not perform any law enforcement function.
We pray they are as kind and welcoming as the staff and volunteers at Casa Alitas in Tucson.
At the border and ready to welcome and serve, Sister Eileen Mahoney, CSA shares the reality of her mission there: “Casa Alitas, the center for asylum-seekers in Tucson sponsored by Catholic Community Services, currently has been receiving almost 500 new guests daily. Guests are brought by Border Patrol with official papers stating they have a right to be in the U.S. and apply for asylum.
The program began five years ago to assist primarily Central Americans arriving through the desert. Because of Title 42 restrictions as well as new limitations on permission enacted in December for guests from Cuba, Haiti, Venezuela and Nicaragua, the current arriving guest population is from different areas. A few people with infants or little children still arrive from southern Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador and Columbia. Most of these come by bus rather than trekking the desert as the earlier ones did. Some from Columbia arrive having traversed the treacherous Darien Pass into Panama. For a few months about 80% of the arrivees have been single males from India, primarily Punjabis and Hindis. Since last month, guests have been arriving from Mauritania in northwest Africa speaking either Arabic or French. Many on our team of more than 800 volunteers as well as all the staff speak Spanish and some Portuguese. The current population of arrivals from Africa and the Middle East reveal our cultural and linguistic limitations.
Casa Alitas anticipates receiving 1,500 new arrivals daily mid-May with the lifting of Title 42. In anticipation, the Welcome Center has been relocated to a large former call center. This center has 150 cots in the center of the building for single males planning to leave in the morning. The facility has service areas all around the periphery of the center. The previous welcome center is now used for guests who have special medical or language needs and also for those who have lost their sponsors and need to stay longer. Three hotels are used for families awaiting money from their families to travel. One of the hotels is for individuals or families who are Covid positive or present with other communicable diseases. Every guest is Covid tested, assisted with travel and clothing while being fed and housed. All with health concerns are assessed and assisted to be able to travel safely. For ongoing medical/health needs, they receive referrals for clinics as their destination.This center has received more than 200,00 guests and not one has been "released to the street" without assistance.”
Sister Eileen ends to say, “The challenges in serving are overwhelming - as are the blessings!”