BY ISN STAFF | April 23, 2021
Jesuit Refugee Service/USA and Jesuit Refugee Service Mexico announced this week the start of a new program designed to respond to the needs of refugees, asylum seekers, and displaced people at the U.S.-Mexico border. The new program, called Caminar Contigo, will aim to reduce suffering, to improve mental health and psychosocial wellbeing, and to decrease violations to the legal rights for refugees, asylum seekers, and other displaced people in the Ciudad Juarez and El Paso region. JRS will provide information, support, and other legal and mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) services.
“The issues at the border of the United States and Mexico have often left thousands of people, nameless and faceless, in the headlines of our papers, but they are our brothers and sisters, and we are committed to walking with them, recognizing their inherent dignity and showing them our solidarity and support,” said JRS Mexico director Patricia Hernandez Lopez.
Regulations put into place by the U.S. and Mexican governments as well as increasing violence in Central America have caused significant challenges at the border. People are arriving at the southern border of the United States to seek safety only to find that they must wait for significant amounts of time to have their cases heard. Their lives have already been disrupted, their communities often broken, and their support networks disjointed, and yet their suffering has become protracted.
“It is our mission to walk with those who have been forcibly displaced, and though we have been able to support this mission around the world, we are proud to expand our mission here in the United States,” said Joan Rosenhauer, executive director of JRS/USA. “The need to end suffering and to support people seeking safety on our southern border continues to grow and we must respond.”
Maria Torres, a clinical psychologist, applied anthropologist, and expert who has served migrant and refugee groups in the region for more than 20 years, will lead the work the U.S. side, while additional leadership will be hired to lead JRS Mexico’s work.
Partnerships with local service agencies—specifically shelters and other legal service providers—will be a key element toward building a strong program and connecting with displaced persons in need of legal and MHPSS services. JRS/USA and JRS Mexico will collaborate to ensure continuity and quality of services for asylum seekers of all walks of life, on both sides of the border.
The commitment through this program is to be with those who are seeking safety and security, it is to “walk with you, caminar contigo.”