December 22, 2006

A Hope Pack for the way back home

By Pablo Jaime Sáinz

For many undocumented immigrants in the United States, deportation is a nightmare they hope will never become a reality. Some of the ones that are detained and deported before reaching their goals, deportation is a failure.

But all not immigrants that are deported give up. Some of them try to cross the border again.

Others, nevertheless, see deportation as an opportunity to return to their homeland and start from scratch, especially during the holiday season.

It is during this season when the Christian spirit gives shelter to hundreds of immigrants that need help in order to survive, away from their families and their land.

The United Methodist Church’s Joint Commission Project on Border Issues in San Diego has begun a program where it will try to lend a hand to deported immigrants that have decided to return to their cities of origin in Mexico.

United Methodist Church representatives in San Diego are working with their Baja California counterparts to hand out a Hope Pack to each of the immigrants, which include basic products for the way back, such as food, water, and personal hygiene products.

The Hope Packs will be delivered to immigrants that receive assistance at any of the three temporary shelters that the United Methodist Church has in Tijuana, said Rev. Luis Garcia, of First United Methodist Church, in Chula Vista.

“Talking to immigrants at the shelters, we noticed that many times when they needed the most help was on how to return to their places of origin,” said Garcia, who was one of the ones who planned the project.

The reverend said that they’re also planning on starting the program in Mexicali and San Luis Rico Colorado, Sonora.

At the Methodist Church shelters in Tijuana, the people who arrive are, in their majority men, who have no one else at the border. They are people that left everything they know behind in order to find a better future.

It is difficult for them to find a job because they don’t have official documents because they lost them, and because they don’t have a permanent address in Tijuana.

It is at those shelters where, just like Mary and Joseph during Nativity, they receive a roof over their heads, food and clothes, to cover from the cold.

The Hope Packs that the Methodist Church will deliver will have the following items inside a backpack: five granola or breakfast bars; four pints of water or juice; peanuts or raisin bags; a pair of new underwear; a new t-shirt; and personal hygiene products, such as soap and toothpaste.

Garcia said they still don’t know how many immigrants will benefit with the Hope Packs. The goal of the program, which starts this month, is to follow on the footsteps of Jesus Christ helping the needy, Garcia said.

“Methodist churches along the border have always given help to those that have been deported,” he said.

The reverend added that for members of First United Methodist Church, in Chula Vista, this program represents an opportunity to share the love of Christ with others.

“This is part of what being Christian means,” he said. “This is what motivates us to work for the people.”

He said that during this era when the immigration issue separates families, the Christian spirit must learn from Jesus and lend a helping hand to the less fortunate.

One of the long-term goals of the program is that immigrants that receive the Hope Packs will also receive assistance from Methodist churches in their home states to be able to get jobs, to continue their studies or to start their own small business.

“This is so that they won’t have to sacrifice their families and get away from them and so that they can stay together in their hometowns,” Garcia said. “Immigration, when it is an option, is very nice. But when it is something forced due to economic and social factors, it is something traumatic that separates families.”

Hope Packs will also include a copy of the New Testament in Spanish.

“We’re offering them help in all senses: Physical, emotional, and spiritual,” Garcia said. “They arrive with no hope after being deported and the Word of God gives hope to their lives.”

Garcia said that those that wish to contribute to this noble cause during this Holiday season, can take their Hope Packs to any United Methodist Church in San Diego. Or they can call him at First United Methodist Church, in Chula Vista, at (619) 656-2525, Ext. 102.

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