The coronavirus pandemic has produced what I call a ‘migrating experience.’ Some of us have had to move our workspaces to our home spaces and create a job atmosphere. From a psychological perspective, it’s not very healthy to bring work home; but in this case, work is home. Since the end of March, Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Services (DMRS) in El Paso, Texas closed our offices due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I think that, if someone had taken an x-ray of our brain at that time, a clear question mark would have come in our results.
I am a caseworker for unaccompanied minors. We visit shelters of children under the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) custody. We give the Know Your Rights presentation and legal screening in order to help these minors the best we can. For the minors–and for us–it is so meaningful to have direct contact with another person. It means, to them, that someone cares for them. To us, it means service full of love and compassion.
When I think of them, I have no reason to complain. Can you imagine away from your family, your country, and everything you know to instead, be in a restricted shelter in the middle of a pandemic? Talk about isolation! And everything that comes with it–depression, anxiety, and trauma. They are only children, for God’s sake.
Some minors, because they do not have a sponsor and are still under 18, probably qualify for some kind of legal relief. Through DMRS, these refugees have the opportunity to receive legal representation in court by our incredible team of lawyers, who are back by the rest of us.
So, how do we get to the minors in quarantine? We take full advantage of social media! Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, Remote Access and others. You name it, we’ve got it! Of course, it can be frustrating at times when you run into problems with the technology.
Even in the midst of this pandemic, there are other cases to continue and more to start, including special immigrant juvenile status cases, asylum cases, trafficking cases, voluntary departure cases, age-out cases, MPP change of status cases, naturalization cases, and so on. We ensure that our children are treated not only lawfully, but with dignity and respect.
We are a team and we all pitch in to get things done. Without adding more stress to these stressful times, migration law is complex and is constantly sabotaged by executive orders.
Still, I see God at work in this crisis. We are called to live in relationship with God, despite the fact that our churches are closed. We are called to live in relationship with others, even when we cannot embrace them. We are called to live in relationship with ourselves, even more when we are vulnerable.
Written by Sister Meggie Flores, D.C.