The following comes from a Jan. 23 story on the website of the California Catholic Conference.
At the U.S.-Mexico border fence in Tijuana, people see a big house at the top of a hill adjacent to a skyline-dominating steeple. The big house is Casa Migrante.
For more than 30 years, after people have grappled with the border’s harsh reality, Casa Migrante is a place where they can get immediate help and begin to re-establish a normal life.
Fr. Pat Murphy, who runs Casa, says that in recent years 90 percent of the people coming to Casa have just been deported from the United States. Those numbers have been rising recently.
“Some of the people had been living in the U.S. for 30 years,” Fr. Pat says. “When they arrive they are in a bit of a shock!”
They usually don’t know where to go or what to do. Casa is a short-term spot where they get immediate shelter, meals and clothing. Equally important, they get help figuring out how to build the rest of their lives.
Fr. Pat is a member of the Scalabrians, an order founded in 1887 specifically to assist Italian immigrants, then suffering in many countries around the world, including the U.S.
“We basically go to where the migrants are,” he adds. Tijuana certainly meets those parameters.
Since its founding in 1987 the Casa has served more than 260,000 migrants.
Scalabrian volunteers help fill key roles in the centers. They are mostly in their 20s and 30s; many are Mexicans, some from the U.S. Asked to serve for a year, although that is flexible, the volunteers go through a solid orientation process before they begin working with migrants.
For those who come up against the barriers of the border, there is almost always a short-term bed available at the Scalabrian centers as well as a meal, counseling on how to put their life onto a secure path again, and a place to pray.