SAN JUAN, RGV – The Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine has assisted more than 25 percent of all the immigrant families reunited over the past two weeks.
Its rector, the Rev. Jorge Gomez, said the Basilica has helped almost 500 reunified families with meals, a place to take a shower, a bed, and transportation to the bus station or the airport.
Asked what state the families were in when they arrived at the shrine, Gomez said:
“They are happy to be with their parents, but when you talk to them they tell you the sad stories–that they were separated. But now they’re happy that they are with their parents and you see when they get together with their parents and they don’t want to separate. They sleep together and they want to go to the restroom together because they don’t want to be separated from their parents and I think that’s a sign of the trauma they went through”
Asked what the longest period an immigrant child has been kept from his or her parents, Gomez said about two and a half months.
Under court order, the federal government has reunited 1,820 families over the past two weeks. There are 650 children the government says are “ineligible” for reunification. And 431 parents have already been deported. A judge has ordered the government to find them.
Video interview with the Rev. Gomez:
Video interview with the Rev. Gomez, Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, and Brenda Nettles Riojas, public relations director for the Diocese of Brownsville: