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Sister Jacinta sees refugee life up close in her first weeks in Mexico

Ursuline Sister Jacinta Powers is settling in with her work at Global Response Management, using her nursing skills to serve refugees on the Mexican border. In her first two weeks traveling daily from Brownsville, Texas to Matamoros, Mexico, she is seeing firsthand what life is like for people who are awaiting asylum hearings in the United States. Here are updates on her ministry in her own words.

“Four structures have been built close to the mobile medical clinic. The one (she and other volunteers built during a 10-day trip in December) is used by an OB-GYN doctor on Tuesdays and Fridays, and used other days for private conversations with patients, or whatever is needed. The one next to it is now used as a safe play place for kids … coloring, card playing, art and perhaps a bit of school, or whatever kids do to bring about some radiating smiles. The next one is used for storage. The one directly across from the clinic is the “pharmacy” – it has shelves with medicines, tables, etc. All are very nice.  

“The people show up and a translator gets their name, date of birth, phone number (if they have one), country of origin and symptoms. Then we get vital signs, enter that data into the computer, then pass the paper onto the doctors. They in turn either use an interpreter or know Spanish. If medicine is needed that is available, they send a note to the pharmacy. From what I have grasped, about 1,000 people are seen in a month’s time.”

“We had one man from Cuba who has been in the camp for over six months who helps at the clinic with translation, since he was an English teacher in Cuba. He has been working on his asylum process since getting there. He went this past Wednesday (Jan. 22) for his tenth time to go across the bridge and to the court system right across the bridge. There are big white tents set up there run by ICE and U.S. Border Patrol for the court. Those 10 times, either the judge – who attends via Skype from some city in the United States – was sick, the lawyer did not show up, there was a missing comma or period on his papers … but this time he received the stamp of approval from the judge and got asylum. Right away ICE picked him up and put him in detention stating there may be some judicial appeal to revoke this in the USA, so he was held there. This has never happened before! The number of people who actually receive asylum is very small. In one article I read it is 0.01 % of the people who apply. Thank God my relatives made it through generations ago during the potato famine! 

“On a bit lighter side, one of the volunteers from Canada brought some bubbles for the kids on Friday (Jan. 24). They were sooo excited! It was nice to hear the cries of joy and see their smiles as the bubbles drifted in the sunlight. They were jumping up like kittens or puppies to reach them. There was a different cry later in the day when we began to give some donated flu vaccine to the children … there were cries to be heard, but the tone was definitely different.”


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