Asylum Seekers: An Opportunity to Live Our Principles

By Dorothy Steinicke

asylum seekers in Tlaquepaque, Jalisco photo by Daniel Arauz

There are more than a thousand detainees in the privately operated ICE detention center in Adelanto, near Victorville, CA. These immigrants fled their home countries and came to the United States seeking safety. For the past 6 months I have befriended and assisted some of these asylum seekers.

I started out as a pen pal to a young Cameroonian woman, then took a trip out to visit her. When I visited, the organization Freedom For Immigrants gave me names of some women in the same housing unit who had asked for visitors. So I visited them, too. The stories of these women are horrific. They have suffered traumas in their home countries that forced them to flee and seek asylum in another country. Many made harrowing journeys through Central America to arrive at the southern US border to request asylum. From there, they were locked up in a “processing facility” that can only be described as a prison. All the people I have met have been there for months, and I know of people who have been there for years.

Michele, my original pen pal, was granted release on a $5000 bond (all detainees are eligible for a bond hearing after being detained for 6 months). Her family was able to raise the money, and I acted as her sponsor. She stayed with my husband and me for about a month before traveling to the Washington, DC, area to be close to extended family. More recently, my husband and I hosted a young transgender man from El Salvador for 2 weeks.

Photo by Ra Dragon on UnsplashThere are many, many people detained at Adelanto. Their stories are dreadful. Their need is great. I am hoping that members at UUSM (or other friends and colleagues) might be interested and willing to provide some support. The assistance could be as simple as writing a pen pal, or perhaps making visits. Even just helping to orient someone who has made it out on bond or received asylum, someone now facing a completely unfamiliar and perhaps friendless world.

We could do so much more as an organized group than any of us can do as an individual. Please contact me, Dorothy Steinicke, at fia@uusm.org, to get involved.  I will be speaking about this at the next FIA: Peace & Social Justice Committee meeting on Sunday, February 16.  Please join us then to learn more about how you can help.

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