~ by Christopher LaBianco, Executive Director of the Cabrini Mission Foundation in New York

A Brief Description of Our Initiative: Waiting at the Border
In response to challenges faced by immigrants seeking a new life in the United States the Cabrini Mission Foundation has expanded its work in two areas along the U.S. and Mexico border.  The Foundation is partnering with like-minded organizations supporting immigrants and asylum seekers on their journey, most often once they are released from a detention center and or have been living in a tent city along the border.

It can be hard to comprehend the size of such detention centers or encampments.  The Rio Grande Detention Center in Laredo, TX for example, houses a reported population of 1,900 detainees.    In Matamoros, Mexico over 2,500 people are living in tents in an area we refer to as Dignity Villiage.

What does the Current Situation Look Like?
In July of 2019 the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, began enforcing its Migrant Protection Protocols, or the “Remain in Mexico” policy under which the U.S. returns asylum-seekers to Mexico to wait the duration of their pending cases in the immigration court system.
Asylum seekers wait in Mexico often without access to family, legal, or social support. Coupled with the new challenge of COVID-19, as well as hurricane season, it is near impossible for individuals to successfully assert their asylum claims.

Our Greatest Joy in Undertaking the Work: Making a Difference
The Foundation has provided food, clothing, and financial aid for legal assistance, as well as to support the construction of a well to supply drinking water. Legal assistance at the Border includes having a trained person assist migrants in filling out their immigration court paperwork and helping them file it correctly.  If you have ever filled out government documents – you know how confusing it can be.  Try to do it if you speak a language other than the one the form is written or in general if you have difficulty reading or writing.  Legal assistance also includes going to court with the migrants for their court hearings as well helping them monitor and track required court appearances.  Language barriers, missed court appearances, incorrect or missing paperwork, all of these are barriers to entry into the U.S. and can extend the wait at the border months and even years.

I have often heard the question, “How do you move a mountain?”  The answer being one shovel of dirt at a time.  Likewise, the Foundation is approaching the Immigrant crisis at the U.S. border.  We are working to improve the lives of those hoping for a brighter future typically not for themselves but their children.

The Main Challenge we Face in Undertaking This Work
Our main challenge faced is attaining reliable information on the changing needs and conditions at the border.  Based in New York City the Foundation does not have “boots on the ground” at the border.  We rely on our program partners.  Our goal is to one day soon have a physical presence at the border.

An Example of a Good Practice We Use to Move Forward the Work of Serving Immigrants
Partnership: While there are many well-known not-for-profit institutions working at the border, we have found it more effective to work with smaller local groups.   The local partners are often more invested in the work, their administrative costs are low and their ability to address a need is often quicker.

From Our Perspective, Why is Care for People on the Move Important?
Today there are any number of global concerns that merit one’s attention.  In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic perhaps has eclipsed them all.  But the global migration and refugee crisis remains the Foundation’s top priority.  There are an estimated 80 million forcibly displaced people around the world.  In doing this work, we are holding true to the charism of Mother Cabrini.

What can Readers of the Blog do to Support the Work of the Foundation?
Get involved.  Migrant families are resourceful and incredibly optimistic.  They make the best of their situation. They have faith. But your engagement is desperately needed.  The Cabrini Mission Foundation welcomes support and your interest in the work we are doing at the border.  For more information please feel free to contact Christopher LaBianco, clabianco@cabrinifdn.org.

Discover more on: https://cabrinifoundation.org/
Twitter: @CabriniMission
Instagram: @cabrinimission
Facebook: Cabrini Mission Foundation

Christopher LaBianco  serves as the Executive Director of the Cabrini Mission Foundation in New York.  A position he has held for two years.  He began his work with the Missionary Sister’s at Cabrini Medical Center many years ago.   Christopher has held senior positions with the American Red Cross, the East West Institute and United States Olympic Committee. In addition to his undergraduate degree from Auburn University Christopher holds a Master’s degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University.  Christopher is married to his wife Shannon of 20 years and has two children. His oldest is currently enrolled at Cabrini University.

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