The following is a reflection from CBF field personnel Greg Smith, who serves in Fredericksburg, Va., with his wife, Sue. You can learn more about their ministries and support their work at www.cbf.net/smith.
For LUCHA Ministries Immigration Legal Services, the final week of September was full indeed.
Over a four-day period, I clocked 48 hours and, with the invaluable assistance of my attorney colleague Bill Botts, prepared cases and filed application packets to meet a government-imposed deadline of October 2nd when costs were set to rise dramatically and fee waivers for certain immigrant clients were to be eliminated. Thankfully, that deadline was cancelled due to court action on September 29th. But of course, we didn’t know that when we started our race against the clock on August 3rd.
The cases we rushed to file were mostly of asylees seeking to adjust their legal status to that of lawful permanent residents (or LPRs, also called green card holders). There are many things to our work that give me immense satisfaction and pleasure. Reading and hearing the background of asylee applicants, especially the reasons they fled their home countries – most in the dead of night with practically nothing in their hands – are not any of them.
Asylees have sometimes witnessed killings. Almost all have been threatened or had family members threatened, either with severe abuse or death. Some have been raped, both female and male asylees. Women suffer domestic abuse, and their young children and teens witness and sometimes themselves become victims of the same abuse. Young males, sometimes as young as nine or 10, are actively recruited by the gangs. Any attempt to rebuff their advances are met with violence and threats.
The pain and fear asylees experience are unimaginable. Tears flow like a swollen river.
The trek to the U.S. is harrowing. Sometimes women make the journey alone, or with children in tow, not knowing whom they will encounter along the way – much of it on foot – or what might happen to their children. They are exposed to heat, hunger, disorientation and extreme fatigue, not to mention thieves, gangs, corrupt police and people who scream for them to leave their country and go home.
Then, when they think they’ve finally made it and they reach the US/Mexico border, the lucky ones are forced to wait in Mexico, living in squalid camps for a chance to plead their case before a U.S. immigration judge, while the unlucky ones are immediately deported back to the crime, terrorizing and poverty of home.
In 2020, we filed 13 asylee adjustment cases. This doesn’t include an additional number of cases for refugee clients, each of them with their own incredibly traumatic encounters with danger and potential death before arriving on U.S. soil to begin a new life.
I am proud that LUCHA Ministries is able to assist these immigrants. I am thankful for the generous support of CBF congregations and individuals, plus others, who make this work possible. And I praise God for the grace of the call on our lives to serve in this capacity.
But I wish like crazy that the frightful and distressing experiences and events that make our work necessary had never ever happened. I pray to God that fewer and fewer such experiences will.