Office of the Bishop
Diocese of El Paso
Catholic Pastoral Center
February 16, 2019
Dear former Peace Corps Volunteers:
My cousin, Patricia Silke Edmisten, a former Peace Corps Volunteer (Peru 1962-64), suggested I write you. I presently serve as the Catholic Bishop of El Paso in Texas.
Without doubt you have been attuned in recent months to news about the large number of asylum-seekers we are witnessing presently seeking refuge in the United States. It seems that the El Paso region has become a major crossing point along the 2,000 mile border our country shares with Mexico. El Paso has always been a place of encounter and of passage as our very name suggests, but the numbers of families, many with young children, we are witnessing are considerably higher than in the past. The majority are fleeing unendurable levels of violence, instability and the resulting economic collapse in their home countries, especially the three nations that make up what are known as the Northern Triangle of Central America, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.
You have perhaps also heard about the poor treatment these refugees are receiving when they arrive at our border. Even though they are following processes laid out in international law they are treated in very punitive and inhumane ways by Border Patrol and officers .
Since the government does not have sufficient resources to detain them long term, after vetting them, the majority of these families are released on “parole” with the proper documentation to go to wherever they have relatives who can sponsor them as they go through the court process to make their asylum claim.
Those who cross in the El Paso region are released into the care of various volunteer organizations who are operating a number of shelters at churches and diocesan facilities in El Paso and Las Cruces. Lately those numbers have grown from an average of 300 a week to 300 a day, and there are indications that number may grow even more, although these things are hard to predict. The growth has forced us to open more shelters. Annunciation House has even rented our several budget hotels to assure that no families will be left on the streets.
At the shelters they have the opportunity to contact these relatives in order to arrange for bus or plane tickets. Meanwhile we provide them with food, clothing, a place to shower and to rest. Not least of which, we provide them with the first smile they have received in a very long time.
The reason I am writing you is to invite you to tap into the volunteer spirit that motivated you to serve in the past and to come to El Paso to assist us. As this situation continues it is straining the ability of our local community to respond. More than anything we need volunteers who are willing to stay for a minimum of a week serving in a wide range of capacities. Spanish language ability would be a tremendous help, but is not required. We need people to do everything from cleaning, to making contact with sponsor families, to driving families to the bus station, to coordinating shelters. Once you are here we can provide housing and meals.
Please consider this opportunity to serve. If you would like to volunteer, you may fill out the form you will find at the Annunciation House website under “contact form” or you may call Daron Mulligan, who helps schedule our shelter at the Diocesan Pastoral Center, Daron Mulligan at (215) 510-7128.
Note: On the website to volunteer for working in El Paso, it says one week is the minimum. Out of town volunteers, 2 weeks.
499 St. Matthews Street
El Paso, Texas 79907
Ph. (915) 872-8419
Fax (915) 872-8409
Most Reverend Mark J. Seitz, Bishop of El Paso