By Carol McCracken
It was my honor to travel to Texas in August to work at the Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen. I worked closely with Sister Patti Rossi, who is with the Sisters of St. Joseph here in Pittsburgh, and appreciated her experience as well as her kindness and humor.
ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) busses families seeking asylum legally from the nearby detention center to the Humanitarian Center where they are given 3 meals a day, clean clothes, a place to sleep and help with obtaining their bus tickets to travel to their sponsoring families or friends in this country.
My experience serving these very brave and courageous people was life-changing for me. The stories they told of their need to escape their homes included violence and gang threats of death if they did not comply with gang orders. Traveling to the border to seek asylum, frequently with young children, was full of risk, sacrifice, and courage.
Their gratitude for food, clothing, shoelaces and belts taken away in detention, was openly expressed in so many ways. Men, women, and children readily jumped to help us with the work at the center, putting up chairs and tables to make room for mats, sweeping floors or cleaning. The children, however, were very quiet. After a few days had passed, I heard a child cry. Suddenly I realized these children were not laughing or crying as one would expect. They were likely traumatized by what they have experienced in their young lives.
During my visit, the borders of Texas and New Mexico were closed by the Trump Administration. Small numbers of refugees were released from detention and brought to the Humanitarian Center but many were deported. Our guests expressed they had no idea why they were allowed to continue while others they knew were sent back across the border.
Now, hundreds of people seeking asylum wait on the Mexican side of the border in a hot plaza, with no shelter, food, water, or protection. Decisions must be made: do they journey home to danger and uncertainty or do they wait for the small chance that perhaps they will make it through the asylum process and be permitted to enter the United States? They are attempting to follow our rules for seeking asylum but are being blocked in many cruel ways by this administration. It was difficult to return home to my life here, having seen the faces of the children and adults and knowing their difficult journey continues.
A group of volunteers in Brownsville, Texas called Team Brownsville currently crosses the border twice a day, wheeling wagons of food and water to those who wait in hope for a chance for a better life. To learn more about their work, go to
Carol McCracken is a retired teacher who lives in Pittsburgh. The only thing that makes sense to her now is working for peace and justice.
NewPeople Newspaper VOL. 49 No. 8. October, 2019. All rights reserved.