While in McAllen in January, I encountered a reporter from NY Times who was preparing to write an article. Through our discussion I learned that she was researching an article on how the border patrol responds to medical needs at the various ports of entry. She recently shared the article link of the results of her research:
We four, Julie, Clare, Jeanne, and I said farewell to the humanitarian respite center. We all welcomed 230 refugees today. A journalist and reporter from Iceland were documenting the story of the families. New volunteers arrived from church and civic groups. We wonder how the refugees will be welcomed by their sponsors and neighborhoods. We were privileged to assist them on their journey and send them on the bus with a smile and a prayer. We four said farewell to the staff and volunteers with whom we were privileged to share the mission.
We are persevering! One more day to work at the humanitarian respite center! It’s been a blessing and a privilege. The census was so large yesterday that the refugees didn’t all leave on a bus. The holdovers were still here today, plus 220 new arrivals. Tables were set up in the corridor in order to feed everyone. A journalist and photographer were here from Germany. I distributed men’s clothing. A new volunteer and I worked well together, she with her street Spanish and me with my bookish Spanish. When I felt weary, a pleasant and courteous refugee would lift my spirits. I hope I did the same for him. A young mother carried an infant that was born yesterday. Even with the crowded conditions, the seasoned volunteers say they are unaware of a fight or incident.
In between bus loads, I gathered parents and children for a vocabulary lesson. When I explain the meaning of words to Latinos, my mind translates from English to Spanish to English. A man in my group today who knew a little English helped me to improve my Spanish, which became a reciprocal event. There was a journalist here this morning, who lives in Brooklyn and writes in Finnish for a newspaper in Finland. There was also a journalist here this afternoon, who writes for USA TODAY. In total today 445 refugees arrived! The kitchen ran out of food. A restaurant owner delivered taco meals. This building is not big enough for so many refugees. Once the children’s needs are met, they play in the yard. A Little Falls Minnesota Franciscan lives nearby and volunteers. There are other women religious here now, who like us, responded to the invitation from LCWR to volunteer.
Some 380 refugees arrived today! We also had an increased number of volunteers from around the country. I found and displayed on the wall a map of USA. Refugees were eager to see where they are and where they would be going. I helped a volunteer give a vocabulary lesson on currency and parts of the body. There is good teamwork between staff and volunteers. During our lunch break, we found a local market and bought fresh produce. The growing season is long in southern Texas.
There were 280 who arrived today, primarily from Honduras. Many student and church groups volunteered today by cleaning. A state official visited and asked if there was anything he could help with. He said the Respite Center opened four years ago in response to McAllen being a port of entry. Today I accompanied the van driver to the bus terminal. Each family carries a bag of clothing, snacks, a small pillow, and a small blanket. Each child receives a toy or stuffed animal to which they cling as they depart. The four of us celebrated a memorable feast day by having a tasty Tex-Mex meal.
Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan. The Sunday Mass with music led by the mariachi musicians and cantors was joyful and worshipful. The four of us later relaxed and admired the natural beauty of the Lower Rio Grande National Wildlife Refuge. The Spanish moss hanging from the trees created a quiet reflectiveness.
We four (Jeanne, and Sisters Clare, Julie, and Patricia) were curious to observe the Respite Center program on a Saturday. The Center was crowded and busy. A Catholic pastor, adults, and students volunteer one weekend per quarter. A BBQ lunch is provided on Saturdays by a local restaurant. Journalists from Germany interviewed Sister Noma. We four left in the afternoon to visit La Lomita, a historic landmark of a mission church that will be disrupted by the construction of the wall. We glimpsed the Rio Grande while we drove to the National Butterfly Center. Strolling mariachis played for us at the restaurant.
Sister Norma was seen on CBS This Morning during a news clip about refugee families at the border. All staff were busy when an Anglican priest and four church members from Oregon arrived for a tour. A staff person asked me to give a brief tour to the visitors. They want to set up a respite program in their area. Another 250 refugees, primarily from Honduras, arrived today at the shelter. I observed a volunteer instructing a small group of refugees in the use of currency by showing them bills and coins. When she was called away, I continued the language lesson with the vocabulary topics of family members, numbers, and the geographic sections of the United States. Adults and children are learning together. We four relaxed in the evening by attending a mariachi concert at the Basilica.
The Respite Center received some 250 refugees, primarily from Honduras. When the bus load arrives, it is all hands on deck! Staff and volunteers welcome them with a smile and efficiently provide basic needs. In between bus arrivals, we four took our lunch break to get our first view of the wall. From where we were, it appears to be impenetrable and solitary.