Jewish volunteers spend Spring Break helping migrants at Sacred Heart shelter
About 20 students from the Washington area traveled to the Rio Grande Valley for Spring Break, planning to spend the week volunteering -- not partying on South Padre Island.
Members of Temple Sinai in Washington, D.C., visited the Valley last year and witnessed the struggles of immigrants who illegally cross the U.S.-Mexico border. About 20 returned for Spring Break 2016 to volunteer.
"We've talked a lot about immigration reform and the rights of immigrants,"said Lucy Brown, 18, a high school senior from Bethesda, Maryland.
Many people in D.C. focus on government policy, Brown said. Most haven't actually met migrants who cross the border.
"Back in 2014, where there was a lot of news about unaccompanied migrant children coming from Central America, we had seen a lot of that in national news coverage,"said Noah Roos, 17, of Bethesda, Maryland. "My mother is from Texas and she had found out about this respite center and, as a Texan, she felt it was her responsibility to come down here and help as much as we could."
They met migrants like 38-year-old Jimmy Garcia Herrera, who fled Honduras with his daughter and was detained by Border Patrol.
"We left out of fear that a dangerous group would try and take my daughter from me and we wanted to be closer to my other two kids here," Garcia Herrera said.
Garcia Herrera said he planned to travel by bus Monday to Los Angeles to reunite with their family and await immigration hearings. They remain deeply grateful for the help they received Sunday.
"They've been so nice to us here and our mentality now is hoping we can stay here in the country, more so for my daughter, so she can be reunited with her two younger siblings and my wife," Garcia Herrera said.
Rabbi Jonathan Roos says the Jewish people understand the need to help others.
"The history of the Jewish people is a history of refugees, of struggle, of not finding homes, of being persecuted, and of really needing the help and kindness of other people," said Roos, a rabbi from Temple Sinai in Washington, D.C.
The group plans to keep volunteering and learning about immigration Monday, when they meet with Sister Fatima Santiago of Peñitas.