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New Migrants Arriving at Casa Juan Diego – Can you help?

by Angel Valdez

I had commented to our (few) Catholic Workers last week that the Lord was having mercy on us, giving us a break, because a number of families or individuals who had been living at Casa Juan Diego were moving on. But we soon realized that some of the people among the many thousands who were under the bridge at Del Rio (from various countries) had been bussed to other cities in Texas and Arizona and now were needing a place to stay. We started receiving calls from Tucson, from El Paso… and families from the Congo, from Venezuela started arriving, along with Cuban individuals, and a Haitian woman today. Some calls began with, “We have your family members here…” Our response was, probably not exactly, but we will receive them. (A student intern from Burkina Faso, hearing this, commented with a smile, “A part of the great family of Casa Juan Diego.”)

I’m not sure how these families are getting the name of Casa Juan Diego and our phone number except through the Holy Spirit, our web site, or by word of mouth from other refugees. One family came from the transfer center in north Houston. Their sponsorship had fallen through. That Venezuelan family with one child told us a tough story about going through the jungle in Colombia, not having known about their new pregnancy until they were on the trip.

A couple from Congo/Angola arrived with their child, and another Venezuelan family with two children, ages 10 and 6, is asking to come.

I got a call tonight from a cheerful young lady. She said she was from down in Texas and was calling about the three families we were sponsoring. It turned out she was an ICE agent calling from the family detention center at Dilley from where we have received families in the past. I asked her to tell me about the families. She asked if I knew who we were sponsoring or if we were a shelter. I said the latter. She had left the office for the day and didn’t know about ages of children.  ICE would call in the morning with more details. These families are from Angola. The Officer assured me that they would be tested for COVID before they come. Dilley has always been good about that. She asked me if we could arrange their transportation and pay for it. I said we could.

It is hard to say no when we are asked to take families. Saying yes gets them out of detention until they can apply for asylum through the courts.  But each family has concerns and needs to be addressed. Should the teenager begin school here, or will the family be traveling further on. Should we try to find a lawyer for their case; will they be staying in Houston long enough to pursue their case here? Prenatal care may be needed. The children may need to see a doctor or need to learn to read and learn numbers. People must usually go to an Immigration check-in, where dozens of people may already be waiting in line. We try to take each family to get their vaccines against COVID right away.

by Angel Valdez


Other new families are arriving to ask for food to help the local families who have taken them in.

In the meantime, wounded people show up who need to be taken to the hospital and the paralyzed, the sick who cannot receive government funds keep coming for assistance with their living expenses. Our medical clinics are quite busy.

So, as we Catholic Workers are stretched pretty thin to respond to all the needs of people staying in our Houses of Hospitality, we welcome volunteers who can come in during the day, a few hours Monday through Friday to help with driving people to get their vaccines, taking families to apply for WIC, taking people to Immigration check-ins, or to medical clinics, picking up people when they arrive at the bus station or airport, with children and adults on learning English or on teaching children to read. Spanish, French, Portuguese or Creole languages are helpful.

In two weeks, we will no longer have the workers who have been sent to us by the Houston Food Bank to help distribute food to the hundreds who come to our doors for food each week. We will need help to replace them in preparing and distributing groceries.

We will be grateful to all who respond to this opportunity to be involved in the Works of Mercy at Casa Juan Diego.  It helps to be flexible and humble and be willing to do whatever is needed.

Immediately needed are:

Suitcases and duffel bags for refugees who are traveling to another city

Volunteers to help prepare bags of groceries on Monday mornings from 9 to 11. Let us know if you are coming at info@cjd.org.

If you would like to help at other times, please come to see Louise one morning at 9:00 a.m. at 4818 Rose Street (not Sunday).