Assisting with family reunification
By Jill Kruse-Domeyer
Witness Editorial Assistant
On July 31, Pablo Guevara, immigration legal assistant for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Dubuque, and his wife, Karla, deployed to McAllen, Texas, to help with the reunification process of immigrant families.
Parents and children who were earlier separated and detained after entering the United States during the time the federal government was enacting a zero-tolerance policy are now being released and brought back together.
“These kids have been away from their parents, in many cases for months, and I think it’s a pretty awesome opportunity to be able to be part of reuniting them,” said Tracy Morrison, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Dubuque.
Immigrant parents are being fitted with a GPS ankle-monitoring bracelet before their release from detention facilities so that they may stay in the U.S. while they go through the necessary legal processes. Many have relatives who already live in the U.S. who can sponsor them while they await their court dates.
Families are being reunited in several locations near the U.S. southern border, including McAllen, San Antonio and El Paso, Texas, and Phoenix, Arizona. The government has asked Catholic Charities USA to assist with the reunification process and to help get the newly reunited parents and children to relatives or other sponsors across the country.
Catholic Charities USA has sought assistance with this process from Catholic Charities agencies all over the nation and has begun coordinating teams of agency volunteers to aid at the immigrant respite centers during this time of reunification.
Pablo and Karla Guevara will be helping in Texas until Aug. 6. Other staff members of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Dubuque may deploy to McAllen in later weeks.
“When our Catholic Charities agency experienced a disastrous flood in Cedar Rapids in 2008, staff from other Catholic Charities agencies from around the country came to Cedar Rapids weeks at a time to help us,” Morrison said. “This is an opportunity for us to return this favor and help a fellow agency in desperate need.”
Pablo and Karla and other volunteers are helping in different McAllen locations, including in the city’s respite center where children are being held awaiting reunification with their parents. The Guevaras, who are both bilingual, are working directly with families to get them reunified and provide them with bus tickets and supplies of food and clothing prior to their trip to reach their sponsors.
Volunteers are also assisting at the respite center’s warehouse. Generous donors have been sending packages of food, clothing and other supplies for the immigrant families to use as they are released from detention. But the Catholic Charities agency in the McAllen area has a staff of only four people and does not have the capacity to inventory all the incoming supplies, organize the warehouse where supplies are being stored or coordinate their delivery, so volunteers are also helping with those processes.
More information about Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Dubuque’s presence in Texas will be available in an upcoming issue of The Witness.