Before we reached the border, we had stopped along a road where another Samaritan volunteer had seen a cross marking the spot where a migrant's body was found. We got out of the 4 X 4 and walked along a wash. Suddenly we spotted a pair of camouflage pants - they looked almost new. We walked further along and found discarded black pants and a pair of the "slippers" that migrants wear to hide their tracks. Lots of water bottles - we were close to a road and my companion, Gayle said, "This must be a van pick up point as the migrants are told to get rid of all evidence that they have crossed the desert."
All of the women are heading to an unknown life. I wondered - What will happen to these women? Will their children be able to attend preschool or kindergarten? What kind of work will women with three to six years of education and no English find? In a conversation with a Guatemalan who fled in the 1980's to the United States I shared my concern for these women. "Pat," he said,"From my own experience, they will face depression and a tremendous sense of loss and uncertainty." As an indigenous man, he described his experience of crossing three cultural boundaries - his indigenous life and language, then, the plunge into speaking Spanish in order to communicate with other immigrants in Southern California and then, learning English and American ways. "They will need help, Pat. In our indigenous culture, we have our own ways of helping people with depression,"
I think of Adelante Mujeres in Forest Grove, Oregon that uses the ESPERE program from Colombia to help immigrant women deal with depression and cultural change. My new Guatemalan friend suggests that it would be wonderful if churches or Non-profits could find a way to support newly arrived immigrant women and children, and men as well to offer a mental health education program that incorporates these three cultures.
At the other house there was a new young woman from Guatemala who had lived in a shelter for unaccompanied minors until she turned 18 this past weekend. She and the other woman from Honduras wanted to go shopping. Not my favorite thing to do, I admit but off we went to the nearest St. Vincent de Paul that offers a voucher where each of the women can go to the voucher section and pick out five items weekly. The 18 year old is looking for pants. Clothing for these women is challenging - they are shorter and slimmer than the average American woman. I would guess size two to six and petite size pants. I found a few pairs of pants that I thought were the right length. "Mire, Sara" What do you think of these?" She looked at them and said - "No, they are too big in the waist." She picked out a short skirt and some shorts - I laughed to myself, she is only 18 years old and she wants to look good and stylish.
Destinations: Georgia, Kentucky, Florida, California, Tennessee, Alabama, South Carolina and yes, even Oregon are just some of the places where these women are heading. I hope and pray that they will find a welcoming community and a place in this new society IF they are allowed to stay. Humanitarian release to these women and their chlldren is not a guarantee that they will be allowed to stay. A lot of it depends on access to a lawyer and the conditions under which they fled as to whether they can qualify for asylum. Keep them in your thoughts and prayers. Think about what it took to cross the border and walk for miles in the night with your child wondering if you would survive the journey.