STORIES FROM THE SHELTERS: SAPC Experiences with Asylum Seekers Over the Summer 


I wanted to take a moment to share a remarkable God story! My husband and I flew to see our son in Minneapolis two weeks ago. At the start of our journey, we missed our connecting flight in Dallas as our plane sat on the tarmac waiting for an other plane to leave the gate. After many customer service lines and deliberations on the best way to get to our destination, we were given a hotel voucher and the possibility of getting on a flight the next morning at 10:00 am as stand-by passengers. We headed outside the Dallas airport to wait for a shuttle to get to our hotel.

As we were standing there, a woman and her little boy came up trying to figure out what this small voucher in her hand meant for them. She spoke only Spanish, and as it happens, I speak Spanish too. I looked at her voucher and realized we were going to the same hotel. After waiting another hour, our shuttle arrived and we helped her get situated and stay with us as we traveled to the Holiday Inn Express.

We waited in another long line at the hotel. It was getting late, and her little 2-year-old boy was so tired. She only had a backpack and a small travel bag. She reached into the travel bag and pulled out a peanut butter sandwich for her son. It dawned on me then that she might have been an asylum seeker. As I talked to her, it turned out she was an asylum seeker from Guatemala. She was on our flight from Tucson and also missed her connection to Chattanooga where her sponsor was living. She had no idea what to do to get a room using her voucher, how to use an elevator, how to get in her hotel room with the plastic card, how to get to her plane the next morning.

With no cell phone or clock, we set up a wake up call for the next morning. I left to find Jay, and it turned out our rooms were right next to each other, making the next day much easier as we went down to breakfast and got on our shuttle to the airport all together. As we were driving, I couldn’t imagine how she would find her gate at the Dallas airport (I can barely navigate the Dallas airport) but we did it! Got her through security, down a maze of moving sidewalks, escalators, and detours, and finally arrived at her gate. Also happened to find another woman going on her flight and asked her to make sure Alba and her son got on the flight to Chattanooga. I did text her sponsor later that night and made sure they arrived safely, and they did!

This was so incredible. I had done some volunteering with my son-in-law’s youth group earlier in the summer at a local shelter for migrant guests and also at the monastery in Tucson. Alba and her son had stayed at that same monastery in Tucson and had all the paperwork that I had just learned about. She had her travel bag with snacks and toys for her little boy—the very same types of supplies that we had packed two weeks earlier. I can’t imagine what this young woman has been through. She and her little son had walked from Guatemala and had been on their journey for 30 days! I am so humbled and grateful that I got to be a tiny grain in her journey. I really felt God was apart of this crazy set of circumstances! 


Artwork from children at the Monastery


Casa Alitas ministry of Catholic Community Services provides assistance to asylum seekers. Their guests have presented themselves to immigration, applied for asylum according to the law and been approved to enter the country under sponsorship as they await determination on their applications. In the past, ICE and Border patrol had dropped these families at the bus station to fend for themselves in unfamiliar territory – hungry, thirsty, ill-clothed, empty-handed. Through Casa Alitas, they are fed and given clean clothes, find shelter for the day or two required for logistics, and receive assistance in contacting sponsors and navigating transportation. Medical care is also available as needed.

Since January, when the program moved to the Benedictine monastery, over 11,000 guests have been served by more than 400 volunteers who provide every service. I have worked in the kitchen and the laundry, menial services but like everything else received with gratitude. My highlight is seeing the children laughing and playing as I wander through the monastery picking up and delivering laundry.

As the program transitions to a new facility and the government applies new rules and operating practices at ICE and Border Patrol, needs of the program change. In the meantime, I am grateful for the opportunity to serve the sojourner in our midst.

Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? And when did we see You a stranger and welcome You, or naked and clothe You? And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these My brothers, you did it to Me.’
(Matthew 25:37-38, 40)


Clothing Bank for Asylum Seekers at Benedictine Monastery


This summer I have been an intern at Rincon Migrant Shelter, one of the two permanent shelters in Tucson. As an intern, I have gotten to work in and experience all the different facets of the shelter including working in the kitchen, working with guests, donation services, and transporting guests.

I have met many asylum seekers during my time working at the shelter and have tried to build relationships with them in the short time they are at the shelter. We, as Americans, have seen and heard a lot of divisive rhetoric about these people in the news, some say they are criminals, some say they are here to abuse our resources or take our jobs. Well, that’s not the reason the asylum seeker who emotionally looked me straight into the eyes and told me why he came, he said, “it was to save my family.”

The asylum seekers I have met this summer are not just words on a news headline, they are real human beings who have inherent human dignity. They are the little girl who sneaks into the toy area every ten minutes to take another stuffed animal. They are the newborn who was born in immigration who gets to see the sun for the first time. They are the man who teaches me Spanish while I teach him English who gets excited with every word he learns. If there is one thing I have learned it is that if we abandon them, we abandon our humanity.