By Kevin Clack, Sports Editor
The dream of finding refuge in the United States for their loved ones kept two families going as they made the dangerous journey by bus and foot across South America, Central America and Mexico until finally arriving at Newman.
The families, who were caught up in the border drama the country has watched play out over the past several months, were taken in by Newman’s ASC Sisters, who are now trying to help them become self-sufficient.
Due to confidentiality, ASC Sister JoAnn Mark said she can’t give the exact reasons the families seeked asylum, but that their circumstances were difficult and they were in fear for their lives, she said.
Toward the end of the summer, Mark received an email from the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an organization whose concerns include violence and oppression, asking nearby religious communities to house asylum seekers from an overcrowded center in Austin.
“There’s such a flood of people coming that they had them sleeping on the floor or four families in a house intended for one,” she said. “They just had to turn people away.”
After getting approval from the The Wichita Center and the Leadership of the United States region in St. Louis, the families got bus tickets and made their way to Newman.
The first family to arrive, a mother, father and seven children, traveled separately. The father arrived at the end of August, and the mother and other three children arrived almost three months later.
It’s unclear how they were separated, Mark said, but the mother and the three children stayed in contact with the father here in Wichita as they made their way through Costa Rica and to the Mexican border.
“The border control then called me and said they had a woman, whose name I had recognized from the father, who had my address and phone number,” she said. “I told them I knew her and that we would take her.”
Mark purchased bus tickets and the family was finally reunited last week.
The second family, a mother and three daughters age one, three and nine, arrived a little later in September.
When the first four kids arrived in August, the Sisters enrolled them in the Wichita Public School system, along with the nine-year-old from the second family a little later and have been taking them to school.
“Now because other families had done this in May, our four students got placed in three different schools.” she said.
Mark said the convent has taken extra steps to make sure the children feel comfortable and accomplish as much as possible.
“There’s an ASC Sister who volunteers to help each student in the evening,” she said. “They come and they have some time to play, and they eat meals with us and that kind of thing.”
After the father arrived, he gained a work permit, allowing him to legally work in the United States
“Through the generosity of various people, he now has a job, which he started Wednesday,” she said. “And so he can get paid as a regular employee now.”
Due to confusion on how long a person needed to be seeking asylum before getting a work permit, the mother of the second family hasn’t been able to get a job yet.
“I contacted someone who works with migrant work permits who said if they are on humanitarian parole, they can apply for a work permit,” she said. “So we didn’t know that and we’re applying for it now.”
Mark said the Sisters’ goal is to help the parents become self-sufficient and independent.
“I do it because every human being is a child of God and each person deserves our respect. In addition, this country was built on immigrants,” she said. “If we look back at our heritage, unless we’re Native American, we’re all descendants of immigrants. So we need to be honest, respectful and loving to each other.”
PHOTO: THE ASC CONVENT is located just to the south of Beata Hall. Courtesy Photo, Newman Advancement
This article was apart of our 50th anniversary issue where we used similar formatting to an issue from 1973. To see the full issue, formatting included, click here.