Catholic Charities, other groups step up to help migrants transported by bus in Chicago

CHICAGO — When buses full of migrants sent from Texas arrived outside Chicago’s Union Station, a consortium of public service providers and nonprofits sprang into action.

The groups had been told that Texas Governor Greg Abbott would be sending people to Chicago, but they received no official notice of when people would arrive, how many would come, or what special needs they might have, Marie Jochum said. Senior Director of Special Projects. for Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Catholic Charities is among the groups providing assistance to migrants, including asylum seekers.

“I think we knew the night before that they were coming,” Jochum said, adding that the information had come through unofficial channels.

The first group arrived on the evening of August 31 and by September 11 other buses had arrived. Another wave of migrants arrived on September 20, bringing the number to around 800 in recent weeks.

Abbott also sent about 8,100 migrants to Washington and more than 2,600 to New York. It began transporting migrants to these sanctuary cities in April.

In Chicago, migrants were housed not only in city shelters, but also — especially families with young children — in suburban hotels.

Passengers on the first buses came from Venezuela and included families with young children and babies and single men. As more buses arrived, migrants from Cuba and Nicaragua also arrived, along with others from Venezuela.

Around 6 million Venezuelans are refugees and migrants worldwide, according to the UN refugee organization.

Chicago city officials, nonprofit leaders and religious leaders have pledged to help the migrants, who have all been admitted at the border and can remain in the United States while their cases are processed .

But they protested Abbott’s actions, which he says are necessary because the administration led by President Joe Biden, a Democrat, is not doing enough to stem the flow of migrants and border towns are ‘overrun’. . Abbott is a Republican.

“Treating God’s children as political pawns is beneath any elected official, especially when dealing with marginalized and suffering people,” Chicago Cardinal Blase J. Cupich said in a Sept. 2 statement.

“The Archdiocese of Chicago stands with local civic and religious leaders who are committed to supporting these newcomers seeking a better and safer life,” he said.

Once the first buses arrived, the migrants were transported to a shelter where they could have a hot meal, shower and sleep for the night, and the next day they were taken to a reception center where they received health screenings and help in determining their next step.

Some of them have relatives or friends in Chicago, and they received help contacting them, Jochum said, while others were trying to meet family members in other cities. Most of them just want to start their new life, she said.

Migrants who came to Chicago were grateful for the help they received, Jochum told Chicago Catholic, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Chicago. “Many of them said it was the best welcome they had received in any city since leaving Venezuela.”

She spoke to a woman who walked from Venezuela through Central America and Mexico with her husband and 17-month-old daughter, and she is pregnant and expects to give birth in a few weeks.

Most people have been traveling for over a month and until they reach the US border mostly on foot.

Such was the case of two brothers whom Father Wayne Watts spoke to during his visit to the reception center on September 6.

Watts, pastor of Sts. Joseph and Francis Xavier Parish in Wilmette, Illinois, and associate administrator of Catholic Charities, said the young men – “children”, he called them – did not know how long they had walked from Venezuela to the US border. They were hoping to make contact with a family acquaintance in suburban Chicago.

“They were very, very grateful for the welcome,” he said.

Other migrants arriving in Chicago were sent by Mayor Oscar Leeser of El Paso, Texas, a Democrat. To date, the city has sent about 150 migrants to Chicago and more than 2,500 migrants to New York.

Interviewed Sept. 18 on ABC’s “This Week,” Leeser said more than 1,000 migrants arrive in El Paso every day.

Jochum said Catholic Charities and other organizations involved in helping these migrants – including the Salvation Army, the National Immigration Justice Center, the Resurrection Project, the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and refugees, among others, and various government agencies – have a lot of experience in providing this type of assistance.

Catholic Charities, which provides case management services to individuals and families, has a longstanding refugee resettlement program, working with people who come to the United States with refugee status, she said. .

These refugees have more resources from the federal government when they arrive, but they have similar needs.

The agency has also responded to more requests from asylum seekers who come on their own to seek emergency assistance, she said. He also reached out to Catholic Charities sister agencies in New York and Washington to learn of their experiences with busloads of migrants arriving from Texas.

“The important thing here is that the dignity of these people must be elevated,” she said. “They are not helpless and are not pawns in a game. This is an opportunity to welcome our brothers and sisters.

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Martin is an editor at Chicago Catholic, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

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