Southern New Mexicans Extending a Helping Hand to Reunite Immigrant Families

Las Cruces, N.M. – New Mexicans are turning churches down in southern parts of our state into  “hospitality centers” for immigrant parents waiting to be reunited with their children by the July 26 deadline.

U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw gave the Department of Health and Human Services until July 26th to reunite all 2551 children aged 5 to 17 with their parents. He previously ordered the HHS to reunite the 102 younger children, aged 5 and under, with their parents by July 10th.

A federal order they failed to complete, citing “safety concerns” as an excuse for their failure.

However, ten New Mexican churches are providing shelter for these these troubled and worried parents. These centers include churches like Las Cruces’ Holy Cross Retreat Center and Immaculate Heart of Mary Cathedral and St. Anthony’s Catholic Church in Anthony, NM.

These “hospitality centers” are a good example of the longstanding acceptance the majority of New Mexicans have had with its undocumented communities.

“We’re prepared. We have the space to receive 100, 110 individuals from reunited families,” said Ruben Garcia, director of Annunciation House, one of the many hospitality centers providing temporary shelter for migrants and refugees in the Las Cruces/El Paso area.

These immigrant parents have been the scapegoat of one of the worst immigration crisis in modern history brought upon by Trump and his administration’s racist, xenophobic agenda.

“I won’t leave without you,” Digna, a Salvadorian mother said she promised her 9-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter when she last spoke to them.

Digna was separated from her children almost two months ago in May and is now awaiting their return at one of the hospitality centers in El Paso.

“It’s been too long,” Digna said.

Helping the New Mexican immigrant community has been a longstanding tradition in the Land of Enchantment.

From legislative House Memorials assuring the protection of the rights of immigrants across the state, to the fight for in-state tuition access for undocumented students, the majority of New Mexicans have always been tolerant and accepting of our foreign neighbors.

“We are demanding that the government make this reunification happen immediately, make this reunification happen today,” said Taylor Levy, legal coordinator for Annunciation House where Digna is currently awaiting her children.

Last Friday HHS cited safety concerns as the main reason for their inability to meet the July 10 deadline and the possible failure to meet the July 26 deadline set by Judge Sabraw.

HHS Deputy Assistant Secretary of Preparedness and Response stated that Sabraws time limit to reunite thousands of children “materially increases the risk of harm to children.”

“While I am fully committed to complying with this court’s order,” Meekins wrote, “I do not believe placing children into such situations is consistent with the mission of HHS or my core values.“

It is hard to swallow this poor and insensitive excuse from HHS. Their lack of  project management has kept many of these families separated, detained, and worried.

As we all await the outcome of July 26th, its is good to know that many New Mexicans have these families best interest at heart, extending a helping hand.