For the most part, the story concerning the plight of the Central American refugees on the US southern border has been moved from the front pages of national newspapers and is no longer the top story on national news broadcasts.
But just because it is no longer being reported as prominently as it was a couple of month ago, does not mean that the issue has been resolved.
According to the US Customs and Border Protection agency, between October 1, 2013 and July 31, 2014, approximately 62,998 unaccompanied minors were apprehended at the different sectors at our Southwest Border. The border runs all the way from the Rio Grande sector to the San Diego sector in California. That is over 1,500 miles of territory.
The apprehensions have resulted in a unique problem for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, (ICE), since federal law says that unaccompanied minors from countries other than Mexico and Canada cannot be immediately deported.
The situation has also resulted in drastic measures taken by Texas Governor Rick Perry who called out the National Guard to patrol the border, xenophobic political rhetoric from the likes of US Senator Ted Cruz and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and local political candidates; and demeaning and degrading commentary from other right leaning politicians.
But this past Wednesday, a group of local Clergy representing various religious denominations held a press conference at the west end of the Lubbock County Courthouse to remind residents that they cannot forget that this issue not only has political ramifications but also is a humanitarian crisis that requires much more than what we have seen from politicians so far.
The press conference was publicized as a press conference “To inform ourselves and others on the realities on the border and to stand in solidarity with the children specifically the unaccompanied, among the Central American Refugees from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.”
The group”s name is the Central America Refugee’s Committee for Lubbock, and it is a committee which resulted from a series of discussions among several individuals including former Lubbock Mayor David Langston, the publisher of El Editor, Olga Aguero, and other individuals from the greater Lubbock community.
Opening the press conference, Ryon Price, Senior Pastor of Second Baptist Church, referred to the group as “an ecunemical body” comprised of clergy from Lubbock and West Texas that has come together to stand “as witness for the humanity of the children and in gratitude for their lives”. He also pointed out that the group came together as a “unified voice”.
Among the attendees was Bishop Placido Rodriguez, Bishop of the Lubbock Diocese who in his opening prayer asked God to “help us by your grace to banish fear from our hearts that we may embrace each of your children as our own brother and sister”. He also asked God to “help us welcome migrants and refugees with joy and generosity”.
The Reverend David Cruz, Pastor of Our Lady of Grace in Lubbock, and also the spokesman for the committee, told attendees that the group “is here this morning to lend our voice to the growing chorus of voices, expressing concern for the plight of the thousands of refugees from Central America coming across our southern border.” He reminded the group that the “refugees” most who are unaccompanied children “are fleeing lives filled with violence, exploitation, and human trafficking.”
“As representatives of the Faith community, we believe we have a sacred duty to speak in defense of these refugees who are seeking asylum”, said Cruz.
He also acknowledged that the group recognized that the issue was indeed a “contentious public issue fraught with alot of political complexities”. But for the group he said, it is “first and foremost a moral and spiritual issue”.
He appealed to the community “and to citizens of all faiths and cultural backgrounds” to join the committee in responding to this “humanitarian crisis.”
Cruz outlined that there were 3 ways individuals could help. He then invited the public to respond with prayer, help and “to sign”.
A prayer meeting will be held at the Lubbock County courthouse location on Thursday September 4, 2014 from 7:00 to 8:00 PM. to pray for the refugees. Catholic Sister Norma Pimentel will be in attendance at the prayer meeting to give a first hand account of what she has experienced as the director of the Rio Grande Catholic Charities.
Reverend Deshun Avery, Pastor of the First Progressive Baptist Church in Lubbock, Bishop Rodriguez and Pastor Ryon Price will also lead the prayer meeting.
Cruz also said that a drop off center had been set up to receive donations from the public at the Lubbock Catholic Charities. The group is asking that residents help by donating cash, Spanish Bibles, small toiletry items, children’s shoes, diapers, and canned food.
Cynthia Quintanilla, Catholic Charities of Lubbock Director will coordinate the effort. They will accept donations weekdays from 8:30AM to 5:00 PM.
The third way people can help is by signing a letter which will be delivered to Texas Governor Rick Perry, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and Texas Senator Wendy Davis. The complete text of the letter can be found on page 2.
Cruz said that as of the date of the press conference, the letter had already been signed by about 50 members of the Clergy and over 100 members of the “faith community”.
When asked what the next step was for the committee, Bishop Placido Rodriguez summed it up by saying, “We are inviting as many people to come to prayer. We need to be on our knees because our nation at this time has lost its soul, its compassion. And so we are inviting people to come and pray”.