News

Catholic Charities Staffers Help Migrants Released from Detention (Andy Telli, Tennessee Register)

Posted 08/10/2018

Three staffers from Catholic Charities of Tennessee spent a week in Texas helping migrant families recently released from detention centers after crossing the border, helping them find their way to their sponsors to await further court hearings.

Catholic Charities Executive Director Pam Russo and staffers Emily DeVito and Louisa Saratora arrived in McAllen, Texas, on the evening of July 24 to help the staff at the welcome center operated by Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley.

"Basically, we dropped our bags and went to work," Russo said. "It was just helping (families) who had been reunited, helping to get them ready to travel."

In the week that followed, about 1,400 migrants passed through the welcome center, Russo said. "It was a surge of people ... coming every day."

The families had been released from detention centers where migrants have been held since the Trump Administration imposed a "zero tolerance" policy to prosecute everyone who crosses into the country illegally. The policy led to the controversial separation of families.

More migrants were being released from the detention centers to meet the requirements of a court order, Russo explained.

At the welcome center, the migrant families received food, clothing, shelter and help with their immigration paperwork, Russo said. The families' sponsors had provided plane or bus tickets for them and Russo and her team of volunteers helped them get ready to travel, she said.

"It was chaos. It was crazy. But it worked," Russo said.

DeVito was assigned to help the migrants complete their necessary paperwork while Russo and Saratora transported the migrants to the airport and bus station in McAllen. "We made sure they got on their way," Russo said.

"Morning to night we were just working," Russo said. "We sometimes forgot what day it was."

The three Catholic Charities staffers from Tennessee were responding to a call for help that went out to Catholic Charities agencies across the country. Working with Russo's team were volunteers from Catholic Charities agencies in Bridgeport, Connecticut, Lansing Michigan, and Joliet, Illinois.

"The clients were so grateful," Russo said. "The theme was they wanted safety. That's the only reason they're coming."

Most of the migrants Russo met came from Central American countries, such as Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, as well as Peru and Cuba. "We had no one from Mexico that I saw," Russo said.

"They're fleeing gang violence. For women they are fleeing sexual assault," Russo said. "They want safety. They want a better life for their children. They're willing to risk anything."

Many had hired coyotes to smuggle them across the U.S.-Mexican border, she said.

"They're traumatized in their home country, they're traumatized on the trip, they're traumatized in detention, and now they're trying to forge a new life," Russo said. "They have a lot of trauma to deal with."

SOURCE: Three staffers from Catholic Charities of Tennessee spent a week in Texas helping migrant families recently released from detention centers after crossing the border, helping them find their way to their sponsors to await further court hearings.

Catholic Charities Executive Director Pam Russo and staffers Emily DeVito and Louisa Saratora arrived in McAllen, Texas, on the evening of July 24 to help the staff at the welcome center operated by Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley.

"Basically, we dropped our bags and went to work," Russo said. "It was just helping (families) who had been reunited, helping to get them ready to travel."

In the week that followed, about 1,400 migrants passed through the welcome center, Russo said. "It was a surge of people ... coming every day."

The families had been released from detention centers where migrants have been held since the Trump Administration imposed a "zero tolerance" policy to prosecute everyone who crosses into the country illegally. The policy led to the controversial separation of families.

More migrants were being released from the detention centers to meet the requirements of a court order, Russo explained.

At the welcome center, the migrant families received food, clothing, shelter and help with their immigration paperwork, Russo said. The families' sponsors had provided plane or bus tickets for them and Russo and her team of volunteers helped them get ready to travel, she said.

"It was chaos. It was crazy. But it worked," Russo said.

DeVito was assigned to help the migrants complete their necessary paperwork while Russo and Saratora transported the migrants to the airport and bus station in McAllen. "We made sure they got on their way," Russo said.

"Morning to night we were just working," Russo said. "We sometimes forgot what day it was."


Lorena Garza of the Catholic Charities agency for the Diocese or Joliet, Illinois, reads to children staying at the welcome center.

The three Catholic Charities staffers from Tennessee were responding to a call for help that went out to Catholic Charities agencies across the country. Working with Russo's team were volunteers from Catholic Charities agencies in Bridgeport, Connecticut, Lansing Michigan, and Joliet, Illinois.

"The clients were so grateful," Russo said. "The theme was they wanted safety. That's the only reason they're coming."

Most of the migrants Russo met came from Central American countries, such as Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, as well as Peru and Cuba. "We had no one from Mexico that I saw," Russo said.

"They're fleeing gang violence. For women they are fleeing sexual assault," Russo said. "They want safety. They want a better life for their children. They're willing to risk anything."

Many had hired coyotes to smuggle them across the U.S.-Mexican border, she said.

"They're traumatized in their home country, they're traumatized on the trip, they're traumatized in detention, and now they're trying to forge a new life," Russo said. "They have a lot of trauma to deal with."

SOURCE: Three staffers from Catholic Charities of Tennessee spent a week in Texas helping migrant families recently released from detention centers after crossing the border, helping them find their way to their sponsors to await further court hearings.

Catholic Charities Executive Director Pam Russo and staffers Emily DeVito and Louisa Saratora arrived in McAllen, Texas, on the evening of July 24 to help the staff at the welcome center operated by Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley.

"Basically, we dropped our bags and went to work," Russo said. "It was just helping (families) who had been reunited, helping to get them ready to travel."

In the week that followed, about 1,400 migrants passed through the welcome center, Russo said. "It was a surge of people ... coming every day."

The families had been released from detention centers where migrants have been held since the Trump Administration imposed a "zero tolerance" policy to prosecute everyone who crosses into the country illegally. The policy led to the controversial separation of families.

More migrants were being released from the detention centers to meet the requirements of a court order, Russo explained.

At the welcome center, the migrant families received food, clothing, shelter and help with their immigration paperwork, Russo said. The families' sponsors had provided plane or bus tickets for them and Russo and her team of volunteers helped them get ready to travel, she said.

"It was chaos. It was crazy. But it worked," Russo said.

DeVito was assigned to help the migrants complete their necessary paperwork while Russo and Saratora transported the migrants to the airport and bus station in McAllen. "We made sure they got on their way," Russo said.

"Morning to night we were just working," Russo said. "We sometimes forgot what day it was."


Lorena Garza of the Catholic Charities agency for the Diocese or Joliet, Illinois, reads to children staying at the welcome center.

The three Catholic Charities staffers from Tennessee were responding to a call for help that went out to Catholic Charities agencies across the country. Working with Russo's team were volunteers from Catholic Charities agencies in Bridgeport, Connecticut, Lansing Michigan, and Joliet, Illinois.

"The clients were so grateful," Russo said. "The theme was they wanted safety. That's the only reason they're coming."

Most of the migrants Russo met came from Central American countries, such as Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, as well as Peru and Cuba. "We had no one from Mexico that I saw," Russo said.

"They're fleeing gang violence. For women they are fleeing sexual assault," Russo said. "They want safety. They want a better life for their children. They're willing to risk anything."

Many had hired coyotes to smuggle them across the U.S.-Mexican border, she said.

"They're traumatized in their home country, they're traumatized on the trip, they're traumatized in detention, and now they're trying to forge a new life," Russo said. "They have a lot of trauma to deal with."

SOURCE: https://www.dioceseofnashville.com/news/catholic-charities-staffers-help-migrants-released-from-detention





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