National Migration Week will be observed in dioceses around the country January 5-11. The theme is “Out of the Darkness,” and echoes the figurative darkness undocumented immigrants, children, refugees and victims of human trafficking must face when their ability to live out their lives is severely restricted, often due to violence and exploitation.
During the week, Catholics are called to participate through prayer and action to try and ease the struggles of immigrants, migrants and vulnerable populations and to reflect on the Church’s obligation to welcome the stranger.
Daughters of Charity are actively involved in service to, and advocacy for, immigrant populations. One such example, is the work of Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, in El Paso, Texas. Two Daughters of Charity from the Province of St. Louise, Sisters Phyllis Nolan and Nancy Sullivan, currently serve there.
Las Americas was born on May 1, 1987 to answer the needs of a large influx of Central Americans who sought refuge in El Paso. By the mid-1990’s, Las Americas began to assist children and women detained by the Immigration and Naturalization Service through its Justice for Women and Children Project. Las Americas also started representing battered immigrant women under the Battered Immigrant Women Project. Today, Las Americas continues to be one of the only non-profit legal service providers to assist low-income immigrants in the El Paso region.
Las Americas’ vision is that of a country where all immigrants have access to high quality legal representation based on the principle of justice and human rights. Las Americas’ mission is to see this vision realized by providing high quality legal representation to immigrants and by advocating for human rights.Las Americas’ mission includes not only direct service to the most vulnerable of immigrants but also advocacy for the rights of immigrants and education on immigration issues.
Since 2000, Las Americas has assisted asylum seekers from over 25 countries, including Algeria, Dominican Republic, Bosnia, El Salvador, India, Burundi, Georgia, Mexico, and Colombia. Wars and repressive governments continue to create a flood of refugees to our shores. Las Americas continues to provide legal services for these refugees, works to prevent unjust deportations, and challenges Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) policies regarding the treatment of refugees and other detained persons in the area.
In 2008, drug-related violence began to tear apart Ciudad Juárez, El Paso’s sister city south of the border and Las Americas staff started to see an influx in Mexican asylum seekers who sought relief in the United States. Many Mexican refugees have received threats from cartels or criminal organizations with ties to corrupt Mexican government officials. Las Americas completes an average of 15 intakes a week of people fleeing the violence in Mexico.
Learn more about Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center at its website: http://www.las-americas.org