By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – While the Diocese of Jackson is not currently fostering any children separated from their parents at the border, Catholic Charities’ Migrant Support Center is anticipating an uptick in asylum claims.
Program Director of the Catholic Charities Migrant Support Center, Amelia McGowan, visited Central American asylum seekers – primarily women and children – at the U.S./Mexico border in Nogales, Mexico, and heard their harrowing accounts of fleeing abuse and gang violence in their home countries to seek safety and refuge in the United States. In Mississippi, an increase in immigration raids – including arrests of individuals without criminal records – have torn apart Mississippi families, parishes, and communities.
In Mississippi, the Catholic Charities Migrant Support Center defends immigrant communities by providing representation for Mississippi’s most vulnerable immigrants, including asylum seekers and unaccompanied children, and conducting community engagement to spread awareness and support for immigrants within the state.
Mississippi asylum seekers – especially unaccompanied children – are in a particularly vulnerable position, as they must face a complex and daunting legal process, often without legal assistance. As Cardinal Daniel DiNardo wrote, “asylum is an instrument to preserve the right to life,” and the Migrant Support Center has answered this call, prevailing in more than 25 asylum cases for clients from eight countries.
With only two attorneys, however, the Migrant Support Center does not have the capacity to assist all in Mississippi who need asylum representation. The agency has set up a fundraiser online with hopes of training and mentoring a network of pro-bono attorneys throughout the state to defend Mississippi families and children fleeing persecution in their home countries, and increasing outreach and education to immigrant communities throughout the state. Donations can be made online through the Catholic Charities of Jackson Facebook page or by calling the agency at 601-355-8634.
McGowan also recommended the following agencies who are providing direct assistance to families at the border:
– Kino Border Initiative (a Jesuit organization providing supplies and support on both sides of the border): https://www.kinoborderinitiative.org/
– Tucson Samaritans (collaborate closely with Kino): http://www.tucsonsamaritans.org/
– CARA Pro Bono Family Detention Project (a consortium of legal service providers that include the Catholic Legal Immigration Network that provides legal services to detained families): http://caraprobono.org/
– Kids in Need of Defense (represent kids in removal proceedings): https://supportkind.org/
By Maureen Smith