Houston to Yuma: Staff and Volunteers Serve at the Border

Answering the call to serve, volunteers and staff from Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston (CCGH) traveled to Yuma, Arizona, this week to offer support to Catholic Community Services of Southern Arizona (CCS). With generous support from Catholic Charities USA, CCGH and CSS are working together to help families arriving at the U.S./Mexico border by connecting them with family and friends in the U.S., and other services they may be qualified to receive.

See below for the daily updates from staff and volunteers about their experiences:

Day 5 – June 14, 2019

Catholic Community Services Executive Director Peg Harmon and Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston's Karina Hernandez

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston’s Karina Hernandez (right), Director of Community Relations, traveled with a group of staff and volunteers from Houston to Yuma, AZ. She worked closely with Catholic Community Services of Southern Arizona Executive Director Eva Mendez-Counts, MA, LAC and the CSS team to help immigrant families at the U.S./Mexico border.

Today marks Day 76 since the immigration situation started here in Yuma, AZ.  Border Patrol has made a total of 204 bus drops thus far, and with the support from generous people all over the country, CSS has helped more than 4,700 people. There seems to be no end in sight of immigrant drop-offs at the shelter, but the Border Patrol/Immigration office knows that Catholic Charities is helping those in need.

Most of the families that Catholic Charities serves endure great hardships for a chance at a better life in America. One mother and her young teenage daughter left Cuba in December 2018 before finally just recently arriving in Yuma. The mother stopped in several countries to earn money in order to complete their trip to the U.S. A father and teenage daughter from Guatemala traveled for about 45 days. Unfortunately, the family said all of their belongings and whatever money they had with them was stolen. The father said he wants what most parents want for their children — a chance for a better education and life.

When immigrants arrive, CSS works to contact their family already living in the U.S. to inform them their loved ones were dropped off by Immigration/Border Patrol in Yuma. The caring, compassionate staff here speak to the families to try and establish trust so they believe that Catholic Charities is really here to help.

The journey these families partake to come to America is treacherous and often heartbreaking. Some of the families arrived today in tears — crying because they lost a family member during their journey; were separated from family and have no idea where they are or how to get in touch with them; or, thankfully, many cry tears of joy because they finally arrived to a safe place in our country.

These families have risked everything to come to the United States. They are eager to work, support their families and offer their children a better education and a safe place to live. In a place like America, this life is possible.

Day 4 – June 13, 2019

Some children don’t have a proper birthday party because they are in the shelter. A Catholic Charities staff member purchased a cake and desserts so the children can have some sort of celebration.

Today was a reminder that even though some of these families are reunited with their family members here in the U.S., their challenges are far from over.

Our team received a call that a family we helped arrived safely to their destination, but their immigration and court documents were removed from them at an airport. Now they have to find a way to receive copies of these very important documents, which is tough without a lot of funds or being able to speak English. One 15-year-old boy had to interpret for his father, who only speaks their indigenous language, which is not Spanish.

Some of these immigrant families also struggle to navigate our country’s complex legal system, and some of their legal documents have mistakes due to cultural differences. In Central America dates are day/month/year. In the U.S., it is month/day/year, therefore, birth dates were incorrectly documented. The immigrants are eager to learn English and learn more about the American culture. They were excited to study the U.S. map in the shelter where they are housed, and are eager to start a new life in this country.

Day 3 – June 12, 2019

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston volunteers are working in Yuma, Arizona to help families at the U.S./Mexico border.

Our collaborating organizations work together to help reunite families at the U.S./Mexico border. The families are traveling all over the country, and these bins help keep their transportation schedules organized so volunteers and staff can transport them to the airport or bus station.

Some wonderful news to report today!

A mother and her two young daughters have been staying in the shelter for more than a week. Her sponsor was not able to afford bus tickets to relocate her and her children out of state. Sometimes for even a small family, travel costs can be more than $1,000, which is very difficult for these families to afford. However, a compassionate donor purchased plane tickets for the mother and her daughters, even though the tickets were just a few days in advance. Salvation Army and CCS provide transportation to the families and escort them to their assigned gates. Now they will be able to reunite with their family members to begin a new life.

However, there are many more families that still need help locating their family members and traveling to reunite with them.

More families arrived today from Guatemala, Ecuador and El Salvador, including another mother traveling alone with three children. CCGH and CSS was able to locate a sponsor, but the sponsor can no longer afford tickets for the family. She is scheduled to appear in Kentucky for her immigration court hearing in one month, but now she is going to California to stay with a brother who can barely afford the $1,000+ for their bus tickets. Now she will have to figure out how to get to Kentucky, with her children, from California for their court hearing. She is not able to work and is unsure of how she will be able to purchase. How will she be able to purchase the tickets?

The need to help these families is great, but thanks to faithful volunteers and supporters like you, our organizations are able to collaborate to provide assistance to these families.

Day 2 – June 11, 2019

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston volunteers in Yuma, Arizona to help families with the situation at the US/Mexico border.

Catholic Charities volunteers work with the families who recently crossed the U.S./Mexico border and tries to help them locate their family members in the U.S.

More families arrived today from the Salvation Army shelter, some of them from Columbia and Cuba. Meeting some of these families can be heartbreaking. A woman was in tears because her 15-year-old nephew was separated from her. The travels can be arduous, and some of the families have been traveling for more than two weeks by the time they arrive to the U.S.

Once the families arrive, they wait for their sponsors to purchase their bus tickets or plane tickets, but the cost of travel is high for multiple family members. One woman with three children has been in the shelter for days because her sponsor cannot afford to purchase tickets for her and her children. Now they wait hoping to find someone who may be able to help them — that is only if she is able to locate a family member who has the means to provide assistance.

Thank you to the dedicated volunteers for helping reunite these families, and thank you to those who graciously support Catholic Charities!

Day 1 – June 10, 2019

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston volunteers at Catholic Community Services of Yuma, AZ.

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston volunteers at Catholic Community Services of Yuma, AZ.

CCGH has arrived in Yuma! Our team is here to help Catholic Community Services of Southern Arizona (CSS) process immigrants that have recently arrived to the U.S. These families are from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and other countries.

What happens when these new families arrive in the U.S.?
The immigrants arrive at a Salvation Army shelter at any time of the day in Yuma after being bused to the shelter by U.S. Border Patrol. Once they arrive, volunteers and staff from these relief organizations try to get as much information as possible, such as where they arrived from, when did they leave their home country, and who are there family members they will be staying with in the U.S.

(See more about how the Salvation Army is helping these immigrant families in Yuma.)

What does CSS and CCGH do?
Many of these families left devastating situations in their homelands. Some have traveled for several weeks with babies and young children. Most of them have little to no possessions or money once they arrive, but caring staff and volunteers offer them shelter, a cot to sleep on and basic necessities to be as comfortable as possible while they wait to connect to family members in the U.S.

Staff and volunteers from Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston are

Once immigrants are in the U.S., staff and volunteers try to reunited them with their families already in our country.

Many of the immigrant families are not able to afford bus or plane tickets right away — the immigrants have families all over and are attempting to travel to places such as Minnesota, Ohio, Florida, Virginia and other parts of the country. Staff and volunteers work hard to try and connect them to their families who can sponsor them, and then try and get those families reunited as quickly as possible. A family connection is something to celebrate!

Once they arrive, they will go to an immigration court in the city and state they are traveling to for a hearing regarding their status.

You can help families right here in the Greater Houston area start a better life for themselves and their children.

Donate now