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Despite pandemic, sisters bring material aid, moral support to migrants

January 21, 2021
by Soli Salgado, Nuri Vallbona | Global Sisters Report

At the Gateway International Bridge that links Brownsville, Texas, to Matamoros, Mexico, a group of volunteers and Catholic sisters pull portable carts with diapers, tents, food and supplies. They cross the border into Mexico on foot, a small caravan of about 10 to 20 people. Their destination is the migrant camp on the other side, where asylum-seekers wait in tents for their chance to plead their cases before an immigration judge.

As the pandemic rages around the United States, most people curtail their social interactions to minimize their risk. These sisters, many in their 70s, have taken on more.

"They would provide a shoulder to lean on, provide the people an opportunity to tell their story [and] of course, a lot of hugs and kisses and spiritual, moral support," said Sergio Cordova, co-founder of Team Brownsville, a nonprofit that provides aid to immigrants on the U.S.-Mexico border.

After the Trump administration enacted the Migrant Protection Protocols, or the "Remain in Mexico" policy, in January 2019, more than 60,000 asylum-seekers, a third of whom are children, were forced to wait for their U.S. court dates on the Mexican side of the U.S.-Mexico border. As a result, informal camps emerged.

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Pictured right: Sr. Thérèse Cunningham of the Sisters of the Holy Spirit and Mary Immaculate, center, with guests at La Posada Providencia, an emergency shelter for refugees, asylum-seekers and those fleeing life-threatening conditions, in San Benito, Texas. (Courtesy of Alejandra Zepeda)