For nearly 100 years, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) has been walking alongside and offering relief to those who are hungry, without clothing or water. Today in the Central States region, we are actively working to support people who are seeking a safer, better life for themselves and their families by migrating to the U.S.
In Matthew 25:31-45, Jesus commands that we care for the hungry, thirsty, strangers, those without clothes or in prison. MCC is following that command by collecting and distributing immigration detainee care kits and partnering with organizations like the South Texas Human Rights Center in Falfurrias, Texas.
“We live in a world where the most vulnerable are fleeing from danger and violence. What is most disturbing is that some followers of Jesus, in the U.S., seem to not be troubled. However, Jesus made it clear that we will be judged by how we treat widows, orphans and immigrants. This is a way, a small way, that we feel compelled to affirm the call of Jesus,” explains Michelle Armster, Executive Director for MCC Central States.
Ana Alicia Hinojosa, MCC Central States Immigration Education Coordinator explains, “The immigration detainee care kits provide clothes and basic human needs to men, women and children seeking refuge who have been detained by U.S. Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and are seeking asylum in the U.S. When they are released after days, weeks, or months of detention they get out with nothing but the clothes they traveled with, shoes without shoelaces, and the hope of being reunited with family at their destination. Our immigration detainee care kits provide individuals with a glimmer of hope that the journey they have endured is worth it and gives them back dignity that they have lost in the process of being in the hands of our government detention system.”
Items for the immigration detainee care kits can be shipped or brought to MCC in North Newton, Kansas where kits for women and men will be assembled and checked. Kits will be distributed through the South Texas Response Team which consists of local pastors working with Catholic Charities Respite Center in McAllen, Good Neighbor Settlement House in Brownsville, Loaves and Fishes in Harlingen, Angry Tias & Abuelas in the Rio Grande Valley and other partners to distribute kits to people as they leave detention and are taken to bus stations or airports to reconnect with their families in the U.S.
MCC photo/Janae Rempel
South Texas Human Rights Center (STHRC) works in Brooks County, Texas north of the U.S. and Mexico border. STHRC’s work focuses on doing search and rescue for missing undocumented individuals, forensic recovery and identification and water stations. Providing water to those walking through hot and harsh terrain is one way MCC is partnering to follow Christ’s call. Arianna Mendoza with STHRC explains, “Migrants deaths and the missing undocumented border crossers have been marginalized and accepted as collateral damage of the United States border ‘deterrence policy’. It is due to the existing humanitarian crisis, that STHRC has developed a holistic approach to organizing for social justice and human rights in the ‘corridor of migrant deaths’ Brooks County, Falfurrias, Texas. Our holistic approach to prevent suffering and deaths include: Water Stations Project, Missing Migrant Hotline, search and rescue protocols pushed on Border Patrol, recovery efforts in coordination with families, and identification efforts with Texas State University’s Operation ID, the National Missing and Unidentified Systems (NamUs), and the Forensic Border Coalition (FBC) for the unidentified buried in 18 border counties.”
The Falfurrias Border Patrol Checkpoint is approximately 70 miles north of the U.S./Mexico border. “Our area of focus for our Water Station Project is the approximately 20 to 30 miles through private ranch land that individuals are forced to cross through in order to subvert this check point. To date we have installed around 160 water stations in Brooks County and its surrounding areas…We begin our water stations south of the checkpoint…which we believe to be a popular drop off area and continue them through private ranches and on County Roads,” says Mendoza.
The Water Station Project is currently going through an update with volunteers installing Phase 2 of the Water Station Project. Solar power at each station will alert staff at STHRC when water barrels need to be refilled and will allow individuals crossing to charge their phones while in the brush. A space to store medical supplies is also included in the new stations.
Hinojosa shares from her time visiting STHRC, “After walking through Brooks County alongside the STHRC director and staff, seeing with my own eyes what rough terrain and heat people endure during their journey. I could hear God’s voice telling me MCC has to help give water to my children seeking refuge. ‘I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,’ rang loudly in my mind and soul. I am honored to partner with this organization moving forward in their work to save lives and give water to those needing it.”
STHRC welcomes volunteers to help with the life honoring work they’re doing in Brooks County, Texas. You can learn more about them by visiting their website.
MCC photo/Janae Rempel
MCC urges you to take action by advocating to your members of Congress to welcome those seeking asylum in the U.S. and to focus any federal spending related to asylum seekers on meeting humanitarian needs and addressing the root causes of migration rather than on detention, deterrence and enforcement. The MCC Washington Office has many more resources in their June 19 Immigration update.
MCC has been responding to the needs of people seeking refuge and displaced peoples around the world for almost 100 years. While our world may have changed during that time, the Matthew 25 command for us to respond through God’s love remains the same. We are the body of Christ, filled with his light and love, MCC is the organization providing a bridge for people far from the U.S./Mexico border to act in love and be the light in the lives of our immigrant brothers and sisters.
Support the immigration work that MCC is engaged with in South Texas by collecting kit items, advocating or sending money for MCC to use towards this work. To financially support the work MCC is doing with partner organizations in South Texas, checks can be made out to MCC with “Rio Grande Valley Response” in the memo line. To help MCC purchase immigration detainee care kit supplies and cover transportation costs for the kits, checks should be made out to MCC with “CS Immigration Kits” in the memo line. Financial gifts should be sent to MCC, PO Box 500, Akron, PA 17501.