On Thursday, February 16, 2017, Basilica parishioners traveled to El Paso, Texas to serve the families staying at a shelter for those seeking asylum in the United States. These comments are from Donna, one of the Basilica members who are serving the families in Texas.
We arrived in El Paso yesterday afternoon. During our time here, we will be staying at on the 3rd floor of this beautiful, old convent of the Loretto Sisters—directly across the alley from the shelter where we will be working.
When we arrived a Brazilian woman with two small children was being taken to the airport to catch a flight to Boston to meet family having spent the night at the shelter.
The morning was spent getting a tour of the facility, and sorting clothes that were collected by the Basilica children. In the afternoon we met with Eina, director of the shelter. She gave us a brief history of the shelter and an update on what we can expect to be helping with during our stay.
In December, there were some days where up to 150 asylum seekers were sleeping at the shelter. The people were mainly from Central America and Brazil.
People coming to the border are questioned, fingerprinted by Border Patrol and processed at a facility an hour away. They are required to wear an ankle bracelet with a tracking number. Aphone call is made to a family member or friend who can vouch for them and send them travel money.
From there ICE will bring them to one of 3 shelters. Nazareth Hall receives asylum seekers on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and people will stay for 1-3 days and then either travel by bus or plane to meet family. In the past few weeks the number of people seeking asylum has dropped so significantly that two of the shelters will be closing next week. Starting Monday, Nazareth Hall will be the only short term shelter open. No one can explain why. Some possible reasons we heard were increased border patrol and also the new administrations stance on immigration.
We have been treated so kindly by everyone we have met.