Not all immigrants entering the United States are settling along the southern border. Rather, they live throughout the country. In this blog, I want to focus on one particular group of struggling migrants: those who came the Northern Triangle of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, but are settling in the farmlands of New York.
These migrants are just like those settling in the southern United States–coming in search of work and with hope of a better life. Many of these individuals work as farmers, living on the outskirts of cities and towns and surviving terrible weather and housing conditions. They are often isolated and at the mercy of the farmers who may or may not provide shelter.
Due to the large distance between the farms and, therefore, the migrant workers, this group of migrants lacks a cohesive voice. Unlike those living in cities, these migrants don’t have anyone around to translate for them, to assist them, or to protect them. They have even less access to medical care, education, and outreach centers than their big city counterparts. Sister Christine Mura, D.C., saw these issues and felt a call to take action to make these migrants’ lives easier.
Sister Christine began her ministry in Amsterdam, New York 11 years ago. Originally, she served as a Hispanic outreach and pastoral care worker at St. Mary’s Healthcare where she worked mostly with Puerto Rican immigrants who arrived to work in the carpet and textile industry in the 1990s. One day, after four years of this ministry, Sister Christine was called to the emergency room to translate for a patient who was unable to communicate with doctors. This is when she first discovered the daily struggles of those living off the grid in these rural areas. This is when she decided to take action.
Now, Sister Christine’s days begin before dawn, driving along dark and empty roads to reach farmhouses spread throughout the outlying areas. She brings migrant workers food and supplies. She drives them to their appointments. She serves as a translator, a guide, and an advocate. She is their counselor, their spiritual guide, and their friend. She works all day and, even when she gets home, she is answering calls and emails, coordinating calendars, arranging appointments, and on call, ready to assist whenever she is needed. Whether it is a mother who is in labor or a sudden illness or accident, Sister Christine will get into the car and be on her way to meet whomever needs her help.
A large part of Sister Christine’s ministry involves advocating for these migrants. She often passes along letters that convey the hopelessness and helplessness of these migrants’ situations. The letters have contained stories of unrelenting fear of an abusive partner, desperate pleas from a trafficked teen, the loss of a baby from the lack of healthcare, and deportation due to legal loopholes. Sister Christine knows that the danger didn’t end for these migrants once they left their homeland. Now, they live in fear of gang retaliation, of human trafficking, and of a legal system that favors the system over the people.
As Daughters of Charity, we are called to serve those most in need. Sister Christine fulfills this charism and, to her, no person is invisible.