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A Letter from Ciudad Juarez

We received this letter from Pastor Samuel Lopez in Ciudad Juarez and Pastor Angel Lopez in West Michigan about their ministry to asylum-seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border. Together, these brothers are working to connect brothers and sisters in Christ to address the border crisis as one body. In this letter updating faith partners about the ministry, you will see the need to provide humanitarian aid, but also the urgent importance of changing policies that harm asylum-seekers and those supporting them. Contact your Members of Congress here to urge them to protect asylum-seekers and the asylum process.

Queridos hermanos y hermanas en Cristo, 

Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, 

Pastor Samuel López lives and serves as a pastor in the border town of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico near El Paso, Texas. Frontera de Gracia church has become a sanctuary for more than one hundred Cuban refugees who are waiting for permission to legally cross the border. Unfortunately, the month of June proved especially difficult for those in Ciudad Juarez. The estimated wait time for an individual asking for their first asylum interview at the border is over eight months. Pastor Samuel has expressed that he is physically tired, but he can’t stop the ministry. The need is too great.  

The need is too great.

Following a mandate from the Trump Administration, over 500 immigrants at the border were deported back to Ciudad Juarez in only two days. In contrast, that same week only twenty were granted entrance for their interviews. This has created a growing bottleneck effect because of those waiting and those who are deported and returned to Ciudad Juarez.

With space being limited and individuals being displaced for an undetermined amount of time, Pastor Samuel continues to do what he can. He has started to try to find jobs for those waiting. He recently met four Cubans living on the street and, recognizing that something was not right, took one of the women to the hospital. She was pregnant and suffering from malnutrition and now will be staying at Frontera de Gracia to make sure she has the resources for proper nutrition while she waits for her asylum interview. 

On June 28, the situation became drastically worse.

On June 28, the situation became drastically worse. The Trump Administration asked the president of Mexico to take action to remove migrants at the border over the next 45 days. In response, the Mexican National Guard began to deport immigrants, many to Guatemala,* regardless of their country of origin. Many of these individuals were waiting for their interview to get a chance to legally enter the United States as refugees.

Individuals staying in shelters were much less likely than those on the streets to be deported. However, Frontera de Gracia was raided by the National Guard and all of the guests were arrested and taken to the Mexican Immigration Homeland Security. Pastor Samuel spoke with the local and federal officials about the injustice taking place for Frontera de Gracia Church. Praise God that 2 hours later all the guests were released and were brought back to the church. 

Frontera de Gracia was raided by the National Guard

Despite the difficult journey through Latin America, where refugees have been stripped of their dignity, robbed of their resources, traveled by night and slept in sewers, they had strength to continue because of the hope they have of safe refuge in the United States.  

Through relationships with these refugees, we have learned that “the American Dream” is a journey of placing one foot in front of the other, walking on foreign lands, adapting to foriegn culture and people. It is a trip that starts physically in the jungles of Brazil, Columbia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mexico, but before that trip, a person needs to sell everything and borrow more in order to have funds for the journey. A Cuban friend, for example, if deported, would not only be persecuted when returning to the Island, he also would not even have a home to go back to. Most of the Cubans who have passed through the care of Frontera de Gracia have left wives and children wondering if they will ever see them again.  

Most of the Cubans who have passed through the care of Frontera de Gracia have left wives and children wondering if they will ever see them again. 

Frontera de Gracia is committed to continue to serve a vulnerable population that is in further crisis. However, because of the severe shifts in policy and response to immigration over the last few months, renting a warehouse or secondary location is no longer a feasible or sustainable plan.   

Instead of renting a warehouse, the funds designated to Frontera de Gracia for rent will be invested in the infrastructure of the church. By renovating the second story, Frontera de Gracia will be able to make a permanent shelter on its grounds for those in need. This will create a safer sanctuary in which the church can continue to minister to those in its care.

Thank you for your continued support in caring for the vulnerable refugee population in Ciudad Juarez.  

Serving Together,

Rev. Jose Angel Lopez - Third Reformed Church, Holland, Michigan

Pastor Samuel Lopez de Frontera de Gracia Church, Ciudad Juárez, Mexico 

* Since the writing of this letter, Guatemala has been deemed a 'safe third country' for those seeking asylum. Despite this decision, many agree that Guatemala is not a safe third country, lacking the infrastructure to provide for people in crisis.

Please contact your members of Congress to urge them to protect asylum here. Please also consider donating to Frontera de Gracia here.
Photo by Hal Ozart on Unsplash

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