Justice in Action
Ursulines Active in Laredo, Texas
Part 2: March 2017
This past Friday, March 3rd, we participated in a new initiative begun by the Mexican government. All 50 Mexican consulates in the United States launched legal assistance centers to form partnerships with nonprofit groups and try to get lawyers to help those fearing Trump’s policies. Miami’s Mexican consul general, Jose Antonio Zabalgoitia said that these centers will become “authentic advocates of the rights of Mexican migrants. …we are prioritizing legal matters over everything. Previously, we didn’t have the need to seek so much legal support for our people. But now, we need to protect them against an eventual deportation.”
In the Diocese of Laredo, Bishop James Tamayo met with the Mexican Consul, Ms. Carolina Zaragoza Flores, in hopes of lending support not only to Mexican immigrants but also to anyone needing assistance in having a plan should there be a threat of deportation. There will be an “Emergency Informational Workshop” in March stressing the urgency of this human crisis. The Trump administration has caused a great deal of fear in families, especially in parents who are undocumented and their children are US citizens. The Emergency Informational Workshop is open to all who may be interested but especially for pastors, parish leaders, administrators and diocesan personnel. The workshop will propose methods of assistance for those in danger of deportation. The presenters will include immigration lawyers from the Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid, the Director of Policy on Migration and Refugee Services from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and our colleagues from Catholic Social Services who are Board of Immigration Appeals accredited representatives. One of our main goals is to help undocumented persons prepare their family for immigration Enforcement.
We continue to support the program Cubanosenlafrontera program sponsored by Holding Institute who directly supports 6 kitchens and community centers in a collaborative effort on both sides of the border – Laredo and Nuevo Laredo.
The program provides one meal a day not only to the 800 plus Cubans but also to the community centers that are filled to capacity with immigrants not only from Cuba but also from Central America as well as those who have been deported from the United States.
Once again, you can play an active part:
Part 1 February 2017
This past week Rita Ann Bregenhorn came to visit us in Laredo. Presently we are three in the community – Mercedes Videira, Karen Schwane and Maria Teresa de Llano. During her visit, she encouraged us to write about what is happening along the border between Laredo and Nuevo Laredo. We decided this would be a good idea since what is happening is little known on a national or international level. In sharing it with others we feel “The cry of Christ in the voice of the migrant moves us”. (Bishops’ statement)
Sunday, February 19, 2017 the Sister Cities of Laredo and Nuevo Laredo celebrated the Abrazo Ceremony – The Embrace Ceremony. This event has been done annually, beginning in 1969 and is an event in which two children from Laredo and two children from Nuevo Laredo meet at the center of the Lincoln Juarez International Bridge and embrace. Local and state officials from both side of the border also embrace, meeting in the middle of the bridge.
Just minutes away, in Nuevo Laredo, from this very special and significant event on the bridge, there are also people gathered. There are Cubans who have no place to go as they wait in the public plazas or piazzas for someone to bring them food, water and clothes. It is estimated that in Nuevo Laredo alone there are approximately 1000 Cubans stranded between the United States and Cuba. They have left Cuba in hopes of realizing their “American Dream” only to be turned back at the border. President Obama’s statement on January 12th, 2017 regarding Cuban immigration policy states:
“The Department of Homeland Security is ending the so-called "wet-foot/dry foot" policy, which was put in place more than twenty years ago, and was designed for a different era. Effective immediately, Cuban nationals who attempt to enter the United States illegally and do not qualify for humanitarian relief will be subject to removal, consistent with U.S. law and enforcement priorities.”
Cubans who were on their way to the United States are no longer allowed to enter the United States and, though “the Cuban government has agreed to accept the return of Cuban nationals who have been ordered removed…” most of those being deported are considered traitors and will be punished by the Cuban government.
What can I do to help?
“The border cities consider themselves to be sister cities and friends, sharing a long history of the same land, faith, traditions, culture and solidarity. We bishops shall continue to follow the good example of Pope Francis; we shall seek to construct bridges among peoples, bridges that help to break down the walls of exclusion and exploitation.” (Statement of the Bishops of the Border Between Texas and Northern Mexico, February 16, 2017)
International Ursuline Response to Refugees
Sr. Meta Potocnik shared her experience of being a volunteer of Caritas with refugees and migrants in Slovenia with sisters in her province. I think that it is valuable to be shared with other sisters as well.