Most of us are familiar with the crisis at our southern border.  It’s in the news everyday and the rhetoric surrounding it grows more hateful.  It might be  difficult for some people to believe everything they hear, but when photos of kids in cages and adults packed in like sardines in a wire-fenced can are shown on our TV screens, you cannot deny the humanitarian crisis.  I think it’s important to share first hand stories of refugees seeking asylum in our country.  They are not criminals or terrorists, but simple ordinary people who want not to be tortured, beaten, put in prison, or even threatened by death by police in their own country.   Here is such a story.

“I am unable to be at peace knowing that I had to leave my family behind.  They are in my thoughts day and night and I pray that the good Lord keeps them safe.  I must persevere.  I am here in the United States seeking asylum because my own country would not take care of me.  I belong to an organization called Cuba Independiente y Democratica.  We are an organization that fights for the rights of the Cuban people.  We do humanitarian work and we try to educate the Cuban people about the injustices that occur daily in our country.  We are the opposition.

The last time that the state police detained me, I was passing out brochures.  This infuriated them and they marched me down to the police station.  There they beat me, hit me all over my body and even broke my arm.  They demanded an explanation as to why I was distributing such information.  I was detained for ten days.  It was not the first time; I had been detained and beaten several times.

I had to make a decision–a life changing decision.  The state police demanded that I leave Cuba.  If I did not leave, I had two choices, life in prison or death.  I left; I left everything I have ever know and all the people I love and hold dear in my heart.  This was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made.  I left my wife, my children and my mother behind.  I think about them every waking moment.  I worry about my mother and her frail health.  I left with no choice.  My own country did not want me.

My travels to the United States began on March 2, 2019.  After a hard and exhausting trip I finally arrived in Mexico.  Immigration picked me up and I stayed in detention for a total of 88 days.  …Eventually I was released to a shelter, La Posada Providencia, in Texas.  They were willing to take me in and welcomed me warmly.  I felt freedom that I had not felt for a very long time.  With their help I am learning skills that will help me as I resettle.”

The Women of Providence member congregations are women religious across this United States and Canada who seek to welcome the stranger, provide in some small way for their needs, and help them achieve asylum here.  Some of them sponsor refugee centers like the one in Texas.  Our mission statement calls us “to respond to the global needs of our society.”  Together we can make a difference!

Barbara McMullen, CDP

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