Sister Eileen Returns to Serving Asylum Seekers at the Border
This week, Sister Eileen Mahony is back to Casa Alitas waiting to welcome the next group of guests. Asylum seekers in Tucson are not as numerous as the new stories coming from Texas, but about 20-50 are now arriving daily. The incoming families primarily come by bus from Arizona's southwestern border near California and Mexico and most are from Venezuela, Ecuador, and Cuba.
The experience in 2021 is different than it was 18 months ago. Now, given the complications caused by COVID, all are greeted and tested in outside with rapid-result Covid tests before entering the building. To ensure that adequate separation is maintained, healthy guests are housed in Casa Alitas and two local hotels, while those who test positive for coronavirus are quarantined in a separate hotel. News reports indicate that the housing will expanded quickly to include large tent facilities as well. Food is served on individual trays to rooms rather than having everyone gather in a dining room. Clothing is also distributed to individually, so volunteers are required to do a bit of guesswork regarding what may be needed at each individual’s final destination.
Volunteer teams sign -up to take care of welcome/intake, medical, travel planners, dietary, drivers for airport, etc. Sister Eileen is happy to be back as part of a medical team after a year of minimal activity. For those looking to understand what she sees at the border, she recommends viewing “Oh Mercy - Searching for Hope in the Promised Land,” a documentary short film about the experience of migrants at US/Mexico border.