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Story

By MegAnne Liebsch

June 11, 2024—Joshuar and Stephanie want what every parent wants for their children—freedom, safety, a good education. For them to be good people. That’s why they fled Venezuela with their 10-year-old Andres and toddler Victoria.

By foot and bus, they traveled to the US-Mexico border to seek asylum. In the border town of Reynosa, a cartel kidnapped the family and held Joshuar for nine days demanding a hefty ransom. Since their release, they have lived in a migrant shelter. Every day they request an immigration appointment with U.S. authorities. They have waited for six months.

Joshuar and Stephanie fled Venezuela with their two young children (Courtesy of MegAnne Liebsch).

Unable to work or send Andres to school for fear of the cartel, Joshuar and Stephanie feel frustrated and powerless.

“Sometimes I want to collapse and cry and cry and cry,” Joshuar says. Sometimes he considers the alternative—he wonders if he should just “throw” himself and his family into the Rio Grande, cross the river and try to enter the U.S. without authorization.

Joshuar and Stephanie’s situation is not unique. Their story sheds light on the harsh realities of the US-Mexico border and how changing U.S. policy impacts vulnerable families. Watch our video to learn more.

Currently, there are few ways for migrants and asylum seekers to enter the U.S. with authorization. Those at the southern border are asked to use a U.S. government app, called CBP One. People seeking asylum must make an account and apply for an appointment every day. Only 1,450 appointments are available each day, causing a backlog of migrants waiting several months in Mexico before they can enter the U.S.

Out of desperation, many families give up on seeking an appointment. Instead, they cross the river clandestinely.

A new executive order from the Biden Administration cracks down on unauthorized border crossings. Before this order, it was a standard part of asylum law that someone for fear of their lives could make an unauthorized crossing in order to present themselves to a border security agent and claim asylum. Now, however, unauthorized migrants will be automatically denied asylum and placed into immediate deportation proceedings.

This policy will have devastating impacts for asylum seekers, who have fled violence, insecurity, gangs, and coercion. After surviving harrowing journeys northward, many of them could be sent immediately back to the perilous situations from which they hoped to escape.

Across the U.S., the Jesuit network is trying to respond to this new policy through advocacy and through direct support of migrants. In our own province, the Jesuits of Del Camino Jesuit Border Ministries are providing pastoral and sacramental care to migrants as they await their opportunity to enter the U.S.  Jesuit Refugee Service USA and the Kino Border Initiative are also responding.

Do you think you might be called to life as a Jesuit? Visit www.BeAJesuit.org to begin exploring. 

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