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Juntos Somos Fuertes - Texas Faith Communities and Central American Asylum Seekers
In the summer of 2014, national attention turned to South Texas, where unprecedented numbers of children from Central America were presenting themselves at the Texas-Mexico border, seeking asylum. While the presence of minors seeking asylum was not new in the Valley, the numbers were staggering. Public officials were unprepared to meet basic human needs for the children and the adult family members who sometimes accompanied them.
Into the chaotic situation stepped communities of faith. Partnering with other nonprofits, and in some cases local governments, congregations and faith-based outreach ministries took the lead in meeting the physical and spiritual needs of the migrants and preparing them for the continuation of their journeys toward life in the United States.
Texas Impact facilitated a meeting between faith community representatives and legislators to identify potential opportunities for collaboration. Texas Impact also provided information to the public and policymakers about the work of faith communities; needs for volunteers and donations; and opportunities for Texas congregations to get involved.
The response to Central American migrants in 2014 presented an opportunity to learn about how humanitarian responses come together now...and to develop suggestions for how it might work even better in the future. So in partnership with AmeriCorps, Texas Impact deployed VISTA volunteers to three locations—Houston, San Antonio, and the Lower Rio Grande Valley—to observe firsthand the humanitarian response networks and processes already in place, and to learn from practitioners about possible improvements. This report summarizes the VISTAs’ findings.