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Welcoming asylum seekers

News & Commentary  |  By Jennifer Piper, Jun 14, 2019
Sisel Lan

In Denver, faith communities are stepping up to help migrants reach their loved ones in the U.S.

Last month, AFSC Colorado got a call.  Annunciation House, an organization that provides temporary hospitality to migrants in Texas and New Mexico was seeking support. With their resources stretched, they wanted to know if advocates in Denver could help care for a few dozen migrants who would be sent to Colorado by bus each week.  

We were able to answer their call with a YES, thanks to the capacity and experience of AFSC, the Metro Denver Sanctuary Coalition,  our partner organization Casa de Paz, and our network of faith communities in Colorado that have long worked together to accompany immigrants and build broad support for immigrant justice.   

When the first busload of 55 migrants set out for Denver, we had less than a day and a half to prepare to welcome them. Most of them are seeking asylum and needed a temporary place to stay – and assistance to make their way to loved ones in cities across the U.S.   

With the help of more than 100 volunteers, we welcomed our brothers and sisters. We gave them a safe place to sleep, eat, and get in touch with their loved ones. During their stay with us, which varied between 24 and 60 hours, we helped them arrange travel, get medical attention, and provided them company during this much-needed break in their difficult journey.  

The refugees we welcomed were originally from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. The youngest was just six months old. There were three young friends who had traveled together, while the rest of the group was made up of single dads and moms with one or two children each.  

Photo: Sisel Lan 

Each one of the guests told us that it was the first time they were able to wash their face, rest, and feel safe in weeks. One man told us, “We have never encountered a place like this. They have treated us like royalty here. We are forever grateful.”  

Every day, hundreds of migrants are processed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Border Patrol and then left to fend for themselves in Texas and New Mexico border towns – often with only the clothes on their backs. Most have family or friends in the U.S. they can stay with as they await hearings on their immigration cases, but many need help to contact and coordinate transportation to reach those loved ones.  

The people we supported had loved ones in every region of the U.S., part of the fabric of our communities in 16 states – from California to Ohio to South Dakota to Florida.  

Hosting migrants during their long and difficult journey brought together volunteers from the Denver area – across faiths and backgrounds – to work together from their shared values, create community, and welcome people with the kindness and compassion we all deserve.  

In the weeks ahead, four more buses – carrying about 220 more migrants – are expected to arrive in Denver, the second bus arrived late Tuesday night. And thanks to the support we receive from people like you, AFSC will be there - helping to train volunteers and community members to welcome more people into our communities as well as to advocate for systemic change. 

About the Author

Jennifer Piper is the program director for interfaith organizing in AFSC's Denver Office.