Brothers Greg Cellini, Tom Barton, Padraic Campbell, Geoffrey Clement, and Joseph Bach at the El Paso Border Wall with Juarez, Mexico.
Franciscan Brothers Mission Trip
El Paso, Texas
On August 4, 2019, five Franciscan Brothers of Brooklyn arrived in El Paso, Texas to spend the week ministering to migrant refugees at Casa de Refugiado and in Cuidad Juarez, Mexico.  
After we arrived in El Paso, we had the opportunity to attend a prayer vigil for the victims of the mass shooting.  We were grateful that we were able to pray with the people of El Paso.
We spent most of the week at Casa de Refugiado assisting with intake interviews, sorting and organizing clothing donations, doing laundry, giving out basic toiletry items, and just being present to our migrant brothers and sisters.  We also had the opportunity to cross the border to assist with giving water, food, and toiletries to the migrants who are returned for the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP - also commonly known as Remain in Mexico Policy).  It was definitely a transformative experience for our Brothers and as Brother Geoff said, “to be able to see first-hand what the situation at the border is.”
The Casa de Refugiado (CDR), a migrant shelter in El Paso, Texas, is associated with Annunciation House.  The immigrants at CDR were mostly from Mexico and Brazil.  Other Spanish speaking migrants from all countries other than Mexico who have been processed for Asylum in the US are returned to Mexico where they wait until they have a court hearing in the United States.  On the day of their hearing, they return to the US for their Asylum hearing.  This process could be weeks to months.  If they miss their date because of confusion or lack of communication, they automatically receive an order of removal even though they are in Mexico.  They have to find a US attorney while they are in the shelter in Mexico (not an easy task).

Casa Migrante, a shelter run by the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Juarez, has been established to assist those who are returned to Mexico.  The people we encountered on both sides of the border are the poorest of the poor, their rights violated, rejected, with just a plastic bag with their few belongings, having not been able to shower, sleeping on the floor, insecure, and pressured to go back...but full of the hope of the Beatitudes.

The sleeping area at the warehouse used as a shelter for the migrants at Casa de Refugiado.
The Brothers with two Franciscan Sisters from Dubuque, Iowa.
The Brothers with two Sisters at Casa Oscar Romero.
Brother Geoffrey and Brother Joseph at the prayer vigil.
We also visited two other shelters in El Paso - Casa Vides and Casa Oscar Romero with Fr. Rafael Garcia, SJ, who runs the Encuentro Project with the two Marist Brothers, Br. Lalo and Br. Todd.  

The Brothers are grateful to the Congregation for giving us the invaluable opportunity to learn about the immigration process and to be able to be Brother to those in need.  There will be an opportunity in the future for the Brothers to share their experience with the rest of the Congregation.