Stuck at the border, migrants find a little Christmas cheer

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CIUDA JUARES, MEXICO (AP) — A family of 15 moves just south of the border after fleeing violence in a Guatemalan town and continued U.S. asylum restrictions blocked the way for relatives in California. I attended an Advent Candlelight Ceremony hosted by a shelter.

Evening services in the Buen Samaritano refuge’s tiny Methodist church, which doubled as a cafeteria, were nothing compared to the weeks-long Christmas celebrations they loved in Nueva Concepcion. included fireworks, tamales made from freshly slaughtered pigs, door-to-door visits with families, and villagers carrying a statue of the Virgin Mary from the Catholic Church to another house each day, singing throughout.

“Those traditions are hard to leave behind, but they had to be abandoned anyway,” said Marlon Cruz, 25, a former yucca and plantain farmer in Guatemala. We went to and heard the gunshots, and they kept us indoors.”

Tens of thousands of migrants fleeing violence and poverty in their home countries will almost certainly spend Christmas in crowded shelters and streets of border towns with Mexico.

The Biden administration this week asked the Supreme Court not to lift pandemic-era restrictions on asylum seekers before the holidays. A lower court had already granted the government’s request to hold it until December 21 before rolling back what is known as Title 42. Restrictions have been used more than 2.5 million times to deport and turn away asylum seekers who crossed into the United States illegally. Most of those who apply for asylum at the border.

It is not clear when the court will decide. It is also considering a group of states’ requests to keep the measures in place as immigration arrivals reach unprecedented numbers. In El Paso, Texas, record numbers have either passed undetected or been arrested and released in recent weeks.

Accordingly, the Texas National Guard will be deployed to the downtown border this week and will stay there until Christmas.

With shelters in the city already overcrowded and with little time to celebrate, many migrants are camping in the streets in freezing weather.

At one such camp, El Paso resident Daniel Morgan, 25, showed up this week in a Santa hat and green sweater featuring bows and tiny stockings.

“This is a really complicated issue, and I’m no expert,” Morgan said as he handed out about 100 sweets baked in Sam’s Club cookie mix to immigrants. You came into this world to surrender, and for me that’s the whole reason I came down, to give what I have to others.”

Reverend Brian Strasberger, a Jesuit priest who serves immigrants on both sides of the border in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, about 800 miles away, also shared the experience of immigrants attending the posadas with the trip of the Holy Family. I saw similarities. Celebration at the Casa del Migrante shelter in Renoza, Mexico.

Beloved throughout Latin America, this posada commemorates the search for refuge of Mary and Joseph, who were forced to move from their village to Bethlehem before Jesus was born.

Four girls carried statuettes around the shelter, while dozens of other migrants, many of whom were pregnant women, many of whom had to camp on the streets due to lack of space. had to) sang a call-and-response hymn about being a homeless family. A pregnant woman left in the cold.

“We enact posadas every day,” said Strasberger, who also plans to celebrate Mass at the shelter on Christmas Day.

Many families from Haiti, where posadas are not popular, also enthusiastically participated in singing and distributing small fried cakes called buñuelos prepared by the Mexican Catholic nuns who run the shelter.

We also took turns swinging the piñata, and about 70 kids had the most fun.

“Seeing some people laughing out loud speaks to the joy Christ brought to the world,” Strasberger said. “There was relief and genuine joy. There’s a lot of anxiety and uncertainty they carry.”

Edimar Valera, a 23-year-old mother from Venezuela, has been in a shelter for more than a month with her two-year-old daughter, as well as her mother and other relatives. waiting.

“It was cool. We danced, cracked open piñatas, and ate pizza with Coca-Cola,” she said. “But I’m obviously sad to be here. It’s not where I wanted it to be.”

At a refuge for immigrants and other homeless people in El Paso, Loreta Salgado is also happy, despite leaving her family, including her son and grandchildren, behind in their native Havana, Cuba for over a year. I found a reason why I am here.

Salgado traveled to 11 countries, from Brazil to Mexico. As she went hungry and watched her companion die from a snakebite, she was robbed and held hostage by masked men. She has no money in Salgado and she doesn’t know where to go because a Cuban friend who promised to help her when she reaches the United States has broken her promise.

“But I’m happy to be here, free and with good people,” she said.


Dell’Orto reported from El Paso, Texas and Minneapolis. His Lekan Oyekanmi, an AP video journalist, contributed to this report from Ciudad his Juarez and El Paso.


AP’s religious coverage is supported through a partnership between AP and The Conversation US with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. AP is solely responsible for this content.

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