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Catholic Charities steps up to help asylum-seekers

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SAN DIEGO — Communities across the border braced for a major influx of migrants trying to cross into the United States to seek asylum after a policy known as Title 42 ended on May 11. That did not materialize in the days after the policy ended, though the situation remained fluid..

In the Diocese of San Diego, “Catholic Charities assists asylum-seekers, fulfilling its mission to help the most vulnerable, treating them with mercy,” said Chief Operating Officer Vino Pajanor.

For two years, the organization has operated three shelters across the diocese to receive these immigrants, working  in partnership with other nonprofit organizations.

It has helped around 210,000 people from many countries in that time, a majority of whom are women and children, he said.

The organization has a total of 1,500 beds available to receive the migrants in San Diego and Imperial counties, and is in continuous contact with public authorities at all levels.

At the shelters, staff members receive the migrants, who have been released by U.S. immigration authorities and are legally in the country to pursue their case for asylum. The staff ensures the migrants receive a health screening, provides them with housing and food, and coordinates their travel to connect with loved ones. The migrants usually leave within a day or two of arriving at the shelters, operated primarily with state funds.

In the days before Title 42 ended, asylum-seekers crossed the border illegally. Catholic Charities responded to a call for help from the town of Jacumba, Pajanor said. Hundreds of immigrants — men, women and children from many countries — had set up a camp in that remote East County spot. They were not prepared for the chilly nights and  hot days and were desperate for assistance as they waited to turn themselves in to immigration agents.

On May 12, Catholic Charities team members went to the site and handed out food and water to the migrants, said Pajanor, who traveled with them.

Cardinal Robert W. McElroy accompanied the team. He visited the encampment to see the situation firsthand and delivered a blessing to immigrants.

Three days later, Border Patrol agents began taking the migrants to detention centers.

How to Help
Catholic Charities  urgently needs:

— Volunteers to help in a variety of ways at the shelters for migrants. To register, visit https://bit.ly/3yKzdgt.
— Lightly used clothes, including men’s clothing and shoes for any gender and size. Donations can be dropped off Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 4575 Mission Gorge Place, San Diego 92120.
— Donations of any amount, which can be made on the site www.ccdsd.org.

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