I have always loved to camp with my family, and in fact, my grown children remember camping as one of their favorite childhood memories. On Jan. 17, my husband, Greg, and I along with Sister Pat Forester OSF walked through a campground in Matamoros, Mexico filled with 2,500 campers. These families were not camping for enjoyment, however, but out of a necessity. They are looking for a safe place to live and seeking asylum from violence in their home countries. Since the United States has closed our borders, these families have been detained in this campground in the Mexican border town of Matamoros.

Initially, tears welled up in my eyes as I saw their living conditions of old, ripped tarps fashioned into tents. When I camp, I sleep in a secure tent and on a comfortable foam mattress, but these people do not have such a luxury and are sleeping on the hard ground.

I was surprised to observe that most people were smiling and greeting us as they cooked over an outdoor make shift stove or washed their clothes by hand in the designated washing area. I am truly amazed that these beautiful, hopeful and resilient group of people have formed this community of working together so that they can survive to hopefully have an opportunity to complete the process for gaining asylum in the United States. I enjoy a camping lifestyle for a week tops but then prefer going back “home.”

These families are camping indefinitely as they wait patiently to be welcomed to our country with love and acceptance.

According to Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in our United States Constitution, “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.” And the highest law of our land is God’s law which calls us to always welcome the stranger and refugee and care for the poor.

Sister Pat Forster is currently volunteering with the non-profit organization ARISE which has been supporting immigrant families in south Texas for the past 30 years. “ARISE is an organization that promotes the personal development and empowerment of the immigrant community, especially women, children and youth in the Rio Grande Valley through educational programs that strengthen their organized community and civic participation.” — Mission Statement

Our current administration has failed to comply with both of the laws mentioned above and yet the families seeking asylum wait patiently with hopeful hearts. ARISE gives me hope for God’s people waiting in Mexico who I continue to hold in my prayers.

Vicki Spofford is a resident of Little Falls.

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