Stories of Change

Gustavo (Border Referral Specialist) and Kathy (The Inn volunteer) deliver meals to families who are staying in hotel rooms as they prepare to meet their family members in destination communities. Middle: a bed in a hotel room for an asylum seeking family. Children are given a stuffed animal when they arrive. Bottom: The Inn staff and volunteers wrote “Welcome” in English, Spanish and Portuguese on the window of the room of a newly-arriving family.

A Warm Welcome to The Inn for Asylum Seekers in Arizona

On Monday, November 15, our border services team met Daniela* and Luis* at The Inn in Tucson, Arizona. The Inn is a shelter for asylum seekers, and Daniela and Luis had been there for four days with their three children. The family was hoping to find a way to pay for their transportation from Tucson to Chicago and had been there since the Friday before. “Friday was the first night that we were able to sleep in six days. We were able to shower with warm water,” Daniela told us.

Daniela’s family had run out of money, and they hadn’t been able to arrange affordable transportation for the whole family to get to Chicago yet. They were waiting for help.

Our team communicated with them in both English and Spanish. Daniela and Luis shared that their family was escaping from Venezuela, where Luis served as a funcionario (government official). Daniela told us, “My husband was a government official in Venezuela. One day we had to escape if we wanted to keep living.” She and Luis both mentioned that the political climate in Venezuela pushed their family to leave their whole lives behind from one day to the next. “It’s not easy. We left everything behind. Our family, our home, our careers. Now we have to start all over,” said Luis.

When we asked them about their experience at The Inn, the couple said that they were extremely grateful for Gustavo and the rest of the shelter staff, who had welcomed them and their family with respect and care. “They have welcomed us extremely well. Everyone has taken care of the kids and their needs,” they said. We learned that the shelter staff had provided the kids with toys and coloring materials during their time at the shelter.

Daniela and Luis underscored that their story is only one of thousands and that they had been lucky to make it to the United States alive. While they mentioned that everyone had been welcoming and respectful, Daniela said she hopes people will understand that her family, like many others, are escaping from precarious conditions that endanger their lives. “We just want to live, we want people to understand that we came out of necessity, not to invade, but to live,” she said.

CWS supports shelters like The Inn along the U.S.-Mexico border. Asylum seekers arrive in these shelters after they have been released from federal detention. They are welcomed with hot meals, beds, showers and other support. In partnership with UMCOR, CWS supports Border Referral Specialists in many shelters, who help asylum seekers understand the spectrum of services available in the town or city where they are going. We are proud to walk alongside asylum seekers at every stage of their asylum journey in the United States. This includes supporting border shelters, operating a call center for asylum seekers and providing services such as case management and legal assistance in destination cities.

*Names changed to protect the identities of people who are still in the process of seeking asylum.