Former Commonweal Program Director Heather Sarantis is just returning from doing humanitarian relief work for asylum seekers near the Texas-Mexico border through Bay Area Border Relief. Heather shares her story here:
I had been accepted to do support at Annunciation House, a respite center in El Paso, and was waiting to hear the dates they needed me. But with President Trump’s changes in asylum laws (barring nearly all asylum seekers from entering the US to await their hearing) the respite center no longer needed volunteers, so my trip was cancelled. There was simply no one to serve in the US. Everyone was just sitting in Mexico waiting to get asylum appointments.
At the last minute I was invited to go with Bay Area Border Relief (BABR) (a project of Philanthropic Ventures Foundation) and University of San Francisco (USF) (School of Education as well as the School of Nursing, International and Multicultural Education and Migration Studies). Together they have done several trips to McAllen, TX where there is another well-established respite center, the Humanitarian Respite Center, Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley (run by Sister Norma Seni Pimentel). Again, the change in asylum policies meant that this center that once served hundreds of people (maybe even up to a thousand) a day with food, shelter, clothing, a shower and a safe place was no longer able to provide these much needed services. They were getting about 7 people a day at the time of our trip.