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Migrant caravan should be welcomed, given supplies, says Little Village priest

Central American migrants making their way to the U.S. arrive by foot to Tapachula, Mexico, Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018. | AP Photo/Moises Castillo

Central American migrants making their way to the U.S. arrive by foot to Tapachula, Mexico, Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018. | AP Photo/Moises Castillo

Don’t fear the caravan.

That’s the message from a Little Village priest who is gathering donations to bring to the group of thousands of Honduran and other migrants who are traveling across Central America into Mexico and possibly the United States.

Rev. Jose Sigfredo Landaverde, community activist and founder of the Faith Life and Hope Mission at 3348 W. 25th St., said he is keeping the mission office open 24 hours a day to accept donations of non-perishable food, water, clothes, medicine, diapers and feminine hygiene products he then plans take to the U.S. border with Mexico and beyond.

“We know that these people need to eat, need to drink. They need clothes,” Landaverde said. “They need our moral support because they are human beings.”

Landaverde was in El Salvador last week for the canonization of Archbishop Oscar Romero when he heard about the caravan. He traveled to the borders of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador where he says he saw thousands of people. He witnessed tear gas being used against the migrants, which includes women and children.

More donation collection sites will be opening soon, Landaverde said, as he partners with other community groups. Carnicerias Jimenez, a chain of local grocery stores, has already agreed to make donations, he said.

“We saw our parents suffering … going through all the immigrant situation, so why not help them and be a blessing to them?” said Elizabeth Evans, a supporter of Landaverde’s efforts who appeared at a press conference with him Monday. Evans, of Countryside, is the daughter of Mexican immigrants. “Me, as a human being, I would like to be treated as a human being.”

Father Jose Sigfredo Landaverde hosts a press conference on Monday, Oct. 22 to announce his plans to start collecting donations of food, water and clothing to take to the Mexican border to meet the caravan of immigrants coming from Central America. | Emily McTavish/Chicago Sun-Times

Father Jose Sigfredo Landaverde hosts a press conference on Monday, Oct. 22 to announce his plans to start collecting donations of food, water and clothing to take to the Mexican border to meet the caravan of immigrants coming from Central America. | Emily McTavish/Chicago Sun-Times

Another supporter, Alma Arrue — a Guatemalan immigrant who has been in the United States for 25 years and in Illinois for the past eight — said she recalls facing similar problems to the migrants in the caravan.

“Just like we suffered, so have they and we can do something for them by sending them food supplies and collecting as much as we can because they need so much help on the way up because you come empty-handed,” Arrue said.

The priest repeated that the collection of goods to take to the border is not a political statement but rather a Christian and humanitarian response to the caravan.

“Our response is not a political response,” Landaverde said at a press conference on Monday. “We don’t care about the political debates about this caravan.”

However, Landaverde said his trip to the border will be not only to welcome the immigrants but also to fight President Donald Trump’s administration.

In early morning Tweets, the president said aid would be cut off to the countries of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala because the governments did not stop the caravan from continuing their journey.

Trump placed blame on Democrats for not changing immigration laws and reminded the public of the upcoming November midterm elections where immigration could be a key issue.

The caravan, estimated at 5,000 people, crossed into southern Mexico from Guatemala Sunday. Reports say the group, which has grown or shrank in size as it heads north, had reached the city of Tapachula in Chiapas in southern Mexico.

This will not be Landaverde’s first trip to the border with relief aid. Last fall the priest journeyed south with supplies after a 7.1 magnitude earthquake rocked central Mexico, and he collected donations for victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.

Landaverde says he will leave for the Mexican border as soon as enough supplies are collected and is organizing the trucks to make the trek. In previous aid trips, Landaverde said his organization has made stops in about eight Mexican states, and he plans to do a similar route, which involves heading to the border in Arizona and then crossing into Mexico in Texas at Reynosa.

Landaverde added that his organization is also trying to work with the Mexican Consulate to allow the trucks to come through but has received no response yet.

 

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