The unprecedented number of asylum-seekers from Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries has totally overwhelmed the U.S. immigration system. Government holding facilities are at capacity. Churches have jumped in, providing temporary shelter from time to time. But most of them are also at their limit. Maybe now it’s our turn.
Earlier this month, Border Patrol agents began dropping off families at Las Cruces Gospel Rescue Mission (Las Cruces, New Mexico). About 80 men, women, and children were in the first group. The next day they got 95 more, all of whom were just released by ICE detention centers. And the flow continued, day after day, until this past Friday (minus a short break over Easter). During this time, the mission served as the staging area for the families, providing water, meals, clothing (since most only had what they were wearing when they left home), showers, medical needs, and assistance with travel documents.
CEO Henry Young noted that many of the individuals claimed to be Christians, but many others were seekers, wanting to know more about a relationship with Jesus. “It’s been an exhausting month,” Henry told me, “but our staff is still on a spiritual high because of the encounters. I can’t count the number of Spanish-language Bibles we distributed, in addition to all of the other services we provided.”
But the significant additional workload was pushing staff toward a breaking point—plus it was diverting attention and funds from homeless people in need of life transformation. They’ve now helped ICE find a new staging center, but they are still providing support to the efforts. Even so, Las Cruces city leaders still believe the mission is the best organization to help with this crisis because of their experience in assisting people without means.
Have you thought through your response and action plan should your city ask if you can help immigrant families? With what’s going on at the border, such a call may come sooner than you think. And it’s not just Southwestern cities that could get that call. Cities further inland, away from the commotion, could be prime for consideration.
Action steps: : (1) Talk with your board about what you could do and what your limits are. (2) Become familiar with the laws in your state about providing assistance to aliens. (3) Read the May 2019 issue of CT—the current one—with “A Border Runs Through It” on the cover. (4) Know what your response will be if a reporter asks you questions about the immigration crisis and what the Christian response should be—and make sure your board agrees with your script. Again, don’t shoot from the hip.