For more than three decades, the subterranean level of Trinity United Methodist Church in Berkeley, California, is the place the East Bay Sanctuary Covenant has called home. Its simple red door at the bottom of a stairway has been the gateway to safe and secure passage into the United States for thousands of immigrants and refugees. Despite its rundown environs, Franciscan Sr. Maureen Duignan, the organization's executive director, is deeply worried the program may soon lose this space.
The initiative, which includes housing for refugee women and children, is the result of cooperation between Cabrini sisters, Scalabrini sisters, various Vatican offices, the International Union of Superiors General, and the Italian bishops' conference.
The Sisters of Mercy of the Americas said they are "outraged and appalled" by a recent report of migrant children being moved to a tent city in Texas, adding that what is happening now "pales in comparison to the trauma and uncertainty these young girls and boys and their families will experience for years to come."
Women religious from various congregations are quietly tapping into their faith to advocate for the undocumented. Some of these women happen to be immigration attorneys. Sisters with legal expertise are on the frontlines of changing immigration policies that brought about the separation of families at the border and that made it more difficult for Central Americans to gain asylum.
Sr. Meena Barwa of the Handmaids of Mary was the victim of rape 10 years ago during anti-Christian violence in Kandhamal. At a New Delhi conference on migration, she told her story, which she consented to share with GSR.
Issues surrounding labor migration — such as the rights of migrant workers, high fees on wired remittances, and inconsistent policies across nations — were the focus of a recent three-day conference, "Migrant Workers: An Asian-Pacific Experience." The gathering in New Delhi drew 161 participants, mostly religious, from across Asia.
GSR Today: The Seeking Refuge series took me to Rome and Athens, to see how communities are responding to migration. I spoke to refugee families who taught me about resilience, hope and courage. Sisters and others in the humanitarian field gave me direction as I navigated a tricky and complex subject. These are the lessons I learned.
Casa del Migrante Reynosa, run by four Daughters of Charity in a Mexican town bordering McAllen, Texas, shelters deportees from the U.S. as they figure out what to do next. "When they're deported, they bring with them a very intense pain because they invested in the journey," said Sr. Edith Garrido, a Daughter of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul.
Editorial: In our reporting for our special Seeking Refuge series, we found a new urgency and a new inspiration. The testimonies of refugees illustrate that we cannot look away from the challenge of migration; the work of religious sisters shows us that much is possible.
Honduras ranks as the sixth most unequal country in the world. Drug cartels are common, and workers are subjected to extortion. Women are fleeing Honduras to protect their children from gangs: boys are forced to become foot soldiers while girls are preyed upon against their wills. Now under tougher U.S. policies, gang violence will no longer qualify for asylum claims. And deportees are arriving back in Honduras in massive numbers.
• Also in this series: As resettlement agency in Kansas closes, other doors open
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