Congregations in northeast Ohio gathered on October 2 to learn about the current situation for border detainees and to work together on a tangible response. In a little over an hour, volunteers had packed 175 immigration detainee care kits to provide much-needed supplies for those being released from border detention.
Volunteers assembled the kits at Orrville Mennonite Church with supplies that were all donated or purchased with money raised by local congregations through Open Arms Hispanic Ministries. The items, ranging from socks and sweatpants to towels and shampoo to notebooks and shoelaces, were all sorted and packed into backpacks.
MCC photo/Jennifer Steiner
When people who have been placed in immigration detention centers are released, they often have nothing more than the clothes on their backs. Kits containing clothing and hygiene products can help to rebuild their dignity as they transition into life outside the detention center.
The kits are being collected for Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) who is partnering with the South Texas Response Team, a group of local pastors working with various local partners to distribute kits to people as they leave detention and are taken to bus stations or airports to reconnect with their families.
MCC photo/Jennifer Steiner
Volunteers ranged in age from young children through retirees and included several area junior and senior high youth groups. Once the kits were all assembled and loaded into the box truck, the volunteers surrounded the truck and lifted a prayer of blessing for the kits and those who will receive them.
Jennifer Shue brought her three young daughters, Harper (age 13), Sommer (age 11) and Veena (age 9), to volunteer with the kit packing event. “I want my girls to have a bigger world view beyond Wayne County and know that we all can help no matter how great or small,” said Shue. “Physically putting all the items in the backpack and then putting the backpacks on and walking them through the church and out to the truck was very moving for me to see and be a part of.”
MCC photo/Jennifer Steiner
For nearly 100 years, MCC has been walking alongside and offering relief to those who are hungry, without clothing or water. Today MCC is actively working to support people who are seeking a safer, better life for themselves and their families by migrating to the U.S.
Cash donations are preferred, as they will ensure that material aid goes directly to people in need, rather than having to pay for transportation costs. (Please note "immigration detainee care kit" in the comments box of the online donation form.)
For more information about MCC's immigration work: mcc.org/immigration
MCC also has an urgent need for relief kits that provide valuable supplies to families whose lives have been disrupted by war or disaster. Consider donating relief kits supplies.
Here are four additional and long term things you can do to engage with MCC’s work at the U.S. border.
MCC is asking people of faith to urge their 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 resources in their June 19 Immigration update.
MCC continues to address the roots of poverty and violence that push Central American families to flee their home countries. By offering opportunities – from vocational and agricultural training to peacebuilding and education – MCC helps people become more secure where they are.
- If people must flee for the safety and wellbeing of their families, MCC supports its partners’ efforts to provide food, shelter, legal assistance and psychosocial support to them as they travel. Your gift to Central American migrants helps those who stay home and those who must leave.
- Your gift of welcome helps MCC provide immigration legal support and assistance once people arrive in the U.S. MCC Great Lakes works with partners who respond to policies like family separation and address the hurdles and challenges faced by asylum seekers. Our partners also provide citizenship classes and advocate for just and humane treatment of immigrants caught in the detention process.
- A gift to where needed most supports MCC’s work with displaced people and refugees all over the world.
- Consider taking a learning tour to see first-hand the realities of immigration. Tours to Honduras and Guatemala show why so many women and children leave Central America and seek refuge in the U.S. MCC also sponsors tours of the U.S.-Mexico border. Watch for new migration-related events on our website.
- Check out this story map which outlines the humanitarian crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border with the increased number of asylum seekers from Central America.
- Nonprofit staff who want to learn more about the complex U.S. immigration system can take MCC’s five-day intensive immigration law training.
- Reflect on the stories of migration in the Bible, including the story of Abram in Genesis 12 and the book of Ruth.
- Invite an MCC speaker to share stories and resources with your congregation.
- Ask God to move the hearts of political leaders, immigration enforcement officials, military service members and judges in Central America, Mexico and the U.S.; to treat migrants with respect and dignity.
- Ask God to bring comfort, courage and wisdom to adults and children in detention and to the church leaders, nonprofit staff, volunteers and immigration attorneys who work tirelessly on their behalf.
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
- Matthew 25:35-36 (NIV)