Every day at the San Antonio Greyhound Bus Station and the San Antonio International Airport, you will see an amazing sight: mothers and children who have just been released from family detention centers where they were held after seeking asylum in the United States.
With all their possessions in two grocery bags, they await transportation to take them to sponsors in cities across the United States. Moving among these families are volunteers from the Interfaith Welcome Coalition.
We are there to welcome the mothers and children and offer support.
The IWC came together in the summer of 2014 in response to the overwhelming need of unaccompanied children coming to the United States from Central America.
In response to the crisis, a broad network of San Antonio-area faith communities and community organizations began working collaboratively with RAICES, a nonprofit organization of legal advocates for refugees and asylum-seekers.
The work evolved, and now the IWC collaborates with organizations serving refugees, asylum seekers and at-risk immigrants, and advocates for the needs of these vulnerable populations.
The asylum-seeking women and children are released from detention centers after they demonstrate a “credible fear” of returning home. For about two years, Immigration and Customs Enforcement dropped families off at a RAICES shelter in San Antonio.
Early in 2017, ICE changed its practice and started transporting families directly to the San Antonio Greyhound Bus Station and the San Antonio International Airport.
The Interfaith Welcome Coalition met this challenge by increased recruitment and training of volunteers for the Bus Station and Airport Ministry. Today there are IWC volunteers at both locations seven days a week providing support to these families with travel backpacks, meals, medicines, diapers, toys, assistance with obtaining and understanding their travel itineraries to their final destinations.
We also make sure that they understand the importance of their follow up appointments with ICE and future court dates.
Recently, RAICES has started a project at the bus station that is separate from the Backpack Ministry of IWC. Those volunteers focus exclusively on legal counseling.
The two separate missions of IWC and RAICES require different training and qualifications and have separate volunteer pools.
Please go to www.interfaithwelcomecoalition.org to find out how you can begin to make a difference in the lives of these families.
You are needed. Please join us.
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