Eds. Note: Austin volunteers are taking their time and resources to help the humanitarian crisis along the Texas-Mexico border. KXAN’s Sally Hernandez is traveling with a group of volunteers seeing the crisis first-hand.
McALLEN, Texas (KXAN) — Inside the walls of the Sacred Heart Church are heartbreaking stories of why the thousands of kids made the journey with their moms from Central America to the border like Illiana Martinez and her two young children, 5-year-old Gabriella and 4-year-old Pablo.
Illiana tells me in Spanish she brought her kids here from Guatemala because there is no opportunity for work and she wants them to have a chance in America.
“They’ve been on the road many days. They were detained by immigration, processed and didn’t get a chance to shower and rest,” says Sister Norma Pimenthal, with Catholic Charities USA. “So we find them at the bus station and we bring them here.”
Here, is where Illiana and 5,600 other undocumented immigrants helped by Sacred Heart and Catholic Charities get to take a shower, change into fresh clothes and maybe the right size of shoes, shoes without holes in the soles. The items were all donated from around the country including members of St. James Episcopal Church in Austin.
“It’s beautiful to see a child with tennis shoes,” Sister Pimenthal adds, “Putting them on they feel so wonderful.”
Once the families receive the donated items, they can sleep in tents until their next trip. For some it’s a bus ticket to be reunited with family in different cities around the U.S. Immigration officials have already given many a court date to decide what happens next. Illiana hopes it’s not back to Guatemala.
She says they didn’t come to hurt anyone or steal but came for a chance to have a better life.
During our conversation, we heard a song playing in the background coming from a child’s toy in a small play area. I was playing “It’s a small World” and Sister Pimenthal, couldn’t agree more.
“It’s not about politics these are families,” she said, “These are refugees that need our help. Politics put aside we are human beings.”