DAVID BAUMAN , STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Catholic Charities and the Roman Catholic
Diocese of San Bernardino are preparing to shelter and care for
additional Central American migrants, but it’s unclear whether more will
St. Joseph Catholic Church in Fontana welcomed 46 migrants Thursday,
all of whom were gone by Friday. But the U.S. Border Patrol announced
Thursday it was suspending flights that sent migrants arrested in Texas
to Southern California for processing, so the shelters may no longer be
necessary, at least for now.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement requested the help of the
diocese and Catholic Charities and transferred the migrants from San
Diego County to St. Joseph. On Monday, ICE declined to speculate on
whether more migrants might be sheltered in the Inland Empire.
“We certainly are prepared to accept more,” said John Andrews,
spokesman for the diocese, which includes Riverside and San Bernardino
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Several parishes are ready to house migrants, he said.
One of the back-up sites, in case of an unexpectedly large influx of
migrants, is St. Catherine of Alexandria Church in Riverside. Volunteers
are waiting for the call to help, Deacon John DeGano said.
St. Catherine is one of a number of Inland parishes collecting food,
toiletries, first-aid kits, diapers and other items for migrants.
The migrants who arrived Thursday in Fontana were given some of those
donations, and a Catholic Charities caseworker made arrangements for
family members across the country to meet them at their destinations,
said Ken Sawa, CEO of Catholic Charities San Bernardino and Riverside
Counties. The migrants were then accompanied to a Greyhound bus station
before being sent to live with family.
For migrants who didn’t have the money for bus tickets, Catholic
Charities covered the cost using private donations raised specifically
to help the migrants, Sawa said.
All the migrants were women with children, he said.
Most of the migrants helped on Thursday were gone by the end of that day. Four families left on Friday, Andrews said
None of the families stayed in the Inland Empire. One was sent to San
Francisco; the others traveled to states including New York, New
Jersey, Illinois, Massachusetts, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Colorado,
Protesters picketed St. Joseph on Sunday, saying the Catholic Church
should concentrate on helping U.S. citizens rather than foreign
migrants. Some of those who protested Sunday have been involved in
broader efforts to stop congressional proposals that would provide a
path to citizenship for many people who have lived illegally in the
United States for an extended period.
But Andrews said the assistance the church is providing should be separated from the political debate over immigration.
“We’re receiving these folks because it’s a crisis situation,”
Andrews said. “They have very real human needs we need to attend to. We
can get back to the public policy questions later.”
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