Whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me.
Letter from Rev. Feliberto Pereira
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
We are living in humble gratitude to God for your outpouring of love, support, concern, and compassion. ¡Muchísimas Gracias!
So many of you have called and written. Your desires are so steadfast in love of neighbor.
Over the last 35 years most of the people we serve have come fleeing for their lives. I myself was a political prisoner under Fidel Castro in Cuba. I suffered the conditions of torture on my mind, body, and spirit. I can tell quickly if someone is a real survivor or telling me a “make-believe” story.
The situation in Central America now and for many years is that poverty and wars cause broken relationships and broken families. This causes turning to drugs, gangs, cartels, and a general violence in communities to escape the pain. The violence is visited on all within the community. Few are spared, but some come under intensely cruel violence, torture. Many are killed. Many run in credible fear for their lives.
The governments are unable to control this, and sometimes they are in collusion with the gangs and cartels. Parents are driven to either watch their children starve or be tortured, or seek a better life in the U.S. They have a choice of leaving their children behind or making the dangerous journey with them. Children left behind are subject to additional violence and poverty. Having seen this pattern, many parents are compelled to escape with the clothes on their backs and the child they love. Almost every single person has been tortured, sometimes by the gangs and the police or army, and again as they drove on to get to the U.S. border to apply for asylum. Scars – physical, mental, and spiritual – abound.
As Disciples of Christ, Southwest Good Samaritan Ministries belongs to a Christian tradition which is committed to using our hearts, our heads, and our bodies to answer God’s call to justice (Micah 6:8). But, what is justice in this situation? If this is the man by the side of the road, will we be the Good Samaritan?
It is not a blanket entry ticket into the United States for everyone. It is our call to justice that families must be kept together, that courts must be properly staffed, that humane conditions are for everyone… every one of God’s children, without exception.
Here are some things we know at this point.
The situation is constantly changing. The more we plan, the more effective we are in creating a better situation for the children and families. But, we have absolutely no time frame on this. And, as they say, the best laid plans… Presidential orders are given and can be enacted immediately, or it could take weeks or months. The families could go only to federally funded centers, or the families could be left to their own resources, which are almost non-existent. We could ultimately help 60 families, or none. So, planning and flexibility, and prayer, are all needed. Also, to be blunt, the financial resources to help.
We hope you will be in prayer for our staff, volunteers, and all those who are in detention and newly released over the next weeks. Especially pray for the healing of the children and their caretakers.
When the situation improves, it will not go away completely. The children and families will be HERE! They will need to be reunited. It is unclear when that will happen and if the government will pay for the transportation to reunite them. They will need to rejoin each other and travel to friends, family, and newly assigned immigrant courts across the U.S. They just put them on the street in front of the detention center. This has always been the way it’s done. If they are lucky, someone calls us and we are there to pick them up, provide food, clothes, spiritual care, housing (if needed), and put them on the right buses with tickets to their new home.
We know from long experience and from recent trends that communication with family, medical and mental health care (especially in fluent Spanish), and safe transportation and food along the way are all areas of need. We know that we will likely need extra lines for the communication. We know that our health care, even for a few days could be taxed by the fact that even on a sliding scale, it is expensive and overcrowded. And, we know that the average cost of transportation to family and friends is $350 per person.
Some may say that this is a “cushy deal,” but it isn’t. Detention is still detention, not freedom. Parole does not allow for paid work and dignity. Justice requires commitment, not cruelty. And we are still Christians, and that requires us to give beyond our comfort, and to trust and believe in God.
We look forward to meeting with you as we respond to this fluid situation together in Brownsville, Texas, near our facilities in Bayview and Los Fresnos. We have been thinking a great deal about this system for many years. We have seen the better and the worse, and now even worse.
We will pray together and work together toward the good for all our brothers and sisters, for the children, in God’s Holy Name. ¡Bienvenidos!