Faith leaders set National Call to Action to protest border policy

The San Antonio faith community is not waiting for the courts or Congress to fix Trump's brutal “Remain in Mexico” policy. They're taking to the streets.

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Thousands of families seeking asylum in the U.S. are being stranded in Mexico’s most violent cities. Here is how San Antonio’s Interfaith Welcome Coalition is responding and what they want you to do about it.

“I think we're all familiar with what Remain in Mexico is,” says Jan Olsen “They wait for weeks and months to get across the border to apply for asylum. And then they're given a date, a notice to appear, and then they're sent back to Mexico to some of the most violent places in the world.”

Nuevo Laredo, for instance, “is one of the cities that our State Department has declared too unsafe, because of cartel violence for United States citizens to travel. And so here we are sending these families, these mothers and children back to this city to wait for their court dates.”

On the Mexico side, asylum-seeking mothers, fathers and children have been kidnapped, murdered, assaulted and raped by gangs who prey on them.

After being sent to Juarez, Mexico to wait for her court date, a young Cuban woman desperately emailed a U.S. immigration lawyer begging for help.

Matt Lohmeier, with Justice for our Neighbors, read the young woman’s email to the Interfaith Welcome Coalition members in September:

“Here we have no security of any kind. Please help me. I will thank you infinitely and God will bless you, madam. I prefer to be in a tent, as I was, without taking a bath, going hungry without brushing my teeth, almost without communication, with bad treatment. I feel safe in the United States. Here in this country there is no security of any kind. Please help me. God bless you,” she wrote.

Jan Olsen called it a “cruel mockery of justice that's happening at the hands of our government.”

After visiting Laredo, she and another IWC member “came back really enraged, knowing that we had to figure out a way to bear witness.”

For four years, the Interfaith Welcome Coalition has given asylum-seekers backpacks with food, toiletries and children’s toys as they pass through San Antonio on their journey to family sponsors in other cities.

In the first eight months of 2019, the Interfaith Welcome Coalition gave out 23,921 backpacks.
But then the mothers and children stopped coming because the Trump Administration’s policy forced them to Remain in Mexico.

Volunteers wanted to take the backpacks to Mexico where the stranded mothers, fathers and children need so much help.

“The first thing they told us was, ‘under no circumstances should you go over on
the Nuevo Laredo side.’  They said the violence was horrific. The gangs are completely controlling the city. They're riding up and down the streets in their open vehicles with their automatic weapons, taking over parts of the cities,” said Olsen.

The Interfaith Welcome Coalition is calling on people to take action, to join a nationwide day of protest, to stand in solidarity and to bear witness.

“We need to get out on the streets and say, ‘This is wrong, and it's got to stop,’ “ said Lenna Baxter with the Interfaith Welcome Coalition.

“As we do something in Laredo, we want each city across the country to do something of the same kind,” said Rebecca Flores of the Interfaith Welcome Coalition. “Each city can do their own thing in their own way.”

Learn more about the Interfaith Welcome Coalitions plan for a Bold Border Action for Justice & Compassion on Oct. 26 here