What the heck do the Jarretts do on the border anyway?

In case my last few posts about immigration had you asking this question, I thought I’d share an article written by our diocese about our mission.

Immigration. Liturgy of Life

The first thing you notice about the Lower Rio Grande Valley is the wide open sky above scrub brush and low-lying buildings, interspersed with chain-link fences and frequently, a pack of roaming dogs. Every Monday the Rev. Michael Jarrett, a C4SO priest and founder of The Trinity Mission, drives his truck through this landscape to La Posada Providencia, a residential transition shelter for immigrants and asylees after they have been processed through U.S. Customs.

Since moving to the area last September, Jarrett has volunteered his time to the Sisters of Divine Providence who staff the shelter, offering himself as a sacramental presence of the body of Christ on America’s southern border. Each month, hundreds of families fleeing genocide, political oppression and cartel control in Cuba, Central America, Africa and Asia arrive at the border asking to be protected, overloading the government’s current system.

“It may be a threshold to a land of opportunity, but for many our southern border is a holding cell,” Jarrett says. “It can be a place of complete upheaval of hopes and expectations.”


Check out the rest of the article here.



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Are Refugees Dangerous? A repost from the Public Discourse



Immigration remains a decisive issue for our nation and I remain far too uneducated to have much to say about it.  The Witherspoon Institute’s weekly online publication, Public Discourse has been a great resource for me on issues of morality, culture and politics. This article, Are Refugees Dangerous? is no exception. It does not deny the significant risks and challenges in managing the refugee crisis, but offers a thoughtful look at some of the downsides of the current immigration ban and paints a picture of what a healthier approach might look like. It also asks us to rise to the challenge, that we would be a country who seeks to care for those in need of help.

I’d love to hear your thoughts after reading. Do you have a personal story to share about immigration? What questions would you like to have answered as I plan for more posts in this series?



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The view becomes hazier the closer you get, A perspective from the border Immigration in the USA

I thought I would have had more to say. After all I live just a few miles from the border. If a wall goes up I will see it often.  I hear as much Spanish as I do English when I am out and immigrants make up a significant portion of the patients in my clinic. My daughter and I go regularly to a shelter that houses families from all around the world. Some have eaten at my table and we have laughed together as we watched our children play.  I have heard their unthinkable stories first hand and I have delighted in the privilege of serving them in the minuscule ways that I can.


Immigration in the US. Liturgy of life.


But recent discussion of the immigration ban has left me mostly speechless. To be clear I detest the idea of a ban. I hate to think of a destitute family being turned away, back to a life of poverty and violence.  My quiet is in part due due to my grief for our refugee brothers and sisters compounded with my inability to stay abreast of the latest news regarding them.

But it isn’t only this. While this ban is undoubtedly hasty and rash, I am also aware that our immigration system is broken.  And that we are a deeply divided nation with an ever shifting sense of moral virtue. Undoubtedly the way we care for those who seek the safety of our borders will, in many ways, direct the future of our country.  Seeing this issue first hand I have had a hard time simplifying my stance on immigration policy as #refugeeswelcome. Truthfully I don’t feel at home on either end of what feels like an incredibly polarized political debate.

If we are going to sincerely address this issue as a culture we need to find a crossroads between welcoming human life in all forms and recognizing the legitimate risk that this involves. I believe that hospitality at all costs is God’s call for us. But the way we as a nation play this out is not so clear. The reality is that hospitality requires a boundary line. You must know who you are and what defines you in order to extend who you are to someone else.  Those on both sides of this issue need to be willing to learn from those who take an opposite perspective and all in between in order to remain unified as a nation, to set reasonable priorities and ultimately to care most effectively for those in need.

To fill the void of my speechlessness I am sharing an article that was recently published in our local paper about the immigrant shelter where I volunteer and a family from Honduras.

I hope this will be the first part in a series. In the coming weeks (or let’s face it probably months at the pace I move) as I share stories and information about immigration in the US.


Valley Morning Star

Honduran Woman Recounts her Journey to the U.S

Posted: Saturday, January 7, 2017 10:30 pm

SAN BENITO — It was a quiet Monday morning when the phone rang at La Posada Providencia, south of San Benito.

It was an official at the Department of Homeland Security, calling to ask if the shelter had room for a severely-injured Honduran woman and her 3-year-old son.

The woman, Blanca Rosa, had just presented herself to authorities in Brownsville and had requested asylum in the United States. She had been involved in an auto accident in Mexico, leaving her with two fractured elbows and multiple bruises and abrasions.

Jerico, the son that arrived with her, was not injured in the crash, but a 6-year-old son was killed.

Another son, age 15, was left hospitalized in Mexico and under the care of a local pastor.

“It’s probably one of the worst cases that I’ve seen,” said Sister Zita Telkamp, director at La Posada Providencia. “We had a case similar to that in March and usually once a year someone comes here like that.”

Blanca and her youngest son were processed by federal authorities and then released to the care of La Posada Providencia, a Catholic ministry for people in crisis from around the world, who are seeking legal refuge in this country.

It was there that she recounted her journey and the reasons she left Honduras.

“We lived in a small town that was under the control of the drug cartel,” said Blanca. “They took over many of the small businesses and homes in the village and charged everyone a monthly protection fee.”

In October, Blanca was standing at a bus stop with a neighbor who had refused to pay the fee. As they were waiting for the bus to arrive, Rosa says a cartel member approached them.

“He walked right up to my neighbor and just shot her dead,” recalled Blanca. “As he was leaving, he turned to me and said he would return on Christmas Eve and kill me if I didn’t pay up.”

During the next several weeks, Blanca — living in fear — made preparations to leave her country. She sold what little she owned and by the first week of December, Blanca and her three sons were on their way to the United States. The crash happened six days into their journey and it took another two days for Blanca to arrive in Brownsville, where she turned herself over to authorities.

“I arrived at La Posada on December 19th,” said Blanca. “All we had were the clothes on our backs and our immigration papers, which I carried in a plastic bag.”

Blanca is one of more than 8,500 people who have passed through the doors of La Posada Providencia. Established by the Sisters of Divine Providence in 1989, the shelter ministers to people who are fleeing political and religious persecution, extreme poverty, famine and natural disasters. All of the ministry’s clients have been processed by immigration authorities

La Posada provides the refugees with safety, hope, and a way forward. It provides immediate and tangible support in the form of food, shelter, clothing, medical supplies and care. LPP also provides individualized case management, transportation to clinics, legal aid and social services.

The refugees also have access to on-site communication resources, paperwork/translation assistance, employment preparation, English as a second language and life skills education.

“Transitioning them into American life is one of our main ministries,” said Telkamp, “We feel that if they’re going to be productive citizens and they’re going to establish themselves for the rest of their lives in the United States, they have to be integrated into the American culture.”

La Posada Providencia is one of 20 agencies in the Valley supported by donations to AIM Charities. The non-profit charity was established three years ago by AIM Media Texas, which publishes the Valley Morning Star, The Monitor, The Brownsville Herald, Mid Valley Town Crier, El Nuevo Heraldo, El Extra and Coastal Current.

AIM Media Texas absorbs all administrative costs associated with the charity, ensuring 100 percent of the public’s donations goes directly to the charitable agencies and the people they serve.

“Many times when someone gives me $5 and says, ‘It’s not much,’ I reply that I’m grateful because it purchases five loaves of bread,” said Sister Zita. “We’re just grateful for AIM and the money we received last year. We stretched our dollar and it has gone a long way.”

Blanca and Jerico have since been reunited with their husband and father in Chicago. She agreed to share her story in hopes that it would help others. “I wanted people to know the situation in Honduras,” said Rosa. “I want people to know the cartels are actively threatening and killing people. If I had stayed, there’s a good chance I would be killed. At least I’m alive and I have an opportunity to live.”


You can link to the original article here.

If you feel compelled to give to an organization that is helping new immigrants first hand please go here.

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On Brokenness, Rivers and Not Being Alone

Dripping wet scrubs slapped against my legs as I walked into the room.


“Mr. Rodriguez?” I mumbled with no effort to sound more confident than I felt.


It was my first day in the Surgical ICU. I had risen at 3:30 that morning and made a dark drive in a San Antonio downpour to get there. Arriving I found the hospital parking lot now a wide river. Tardiness in this case was worse than absence so I took off my socks and stuck them in my bag, rolled up my pants, huddled under my short coat and made a dash for it.


Arriving soggy didn’t seem to raise an eyebrow on the floor buzzing with residents who had been up all night closing bullet holes and performing brain surgery.  “Why don’t you see room 4?” they told me finally as I wrung out my ponytail.   “He is stable, we are just babysitting until we can find placement and ship him back across the border.”

I started down the hall, my shoes squeaking.


On Brokenness, Rivers and Not Being Alone. Liturgy of Life


Mr. Rodriguez whose first name was Juan* looked like any other 35 year old Mexican man.  His beard was neatly trimmed, his dark hair was slicked back. He had tired eyes peeking through thick earth colored skin, a scar across his right cheek and in the middle of his neck was a strap holding a ventilator tube in place attaching him to a machine which was rhythmically heaving mechanical breaths into his chest.


Juan was what they call a “Wetback”. He had swum the river, crossed the Rio Grande at night.  He was spotted, ran and took a fall, a mishap which left him with no feeling or movement below his neck.


I wrote down the numbers from the equipment that now maintained his body, the urine catheter, the IV pump, the sighing ventilator.  I tried not to think about what it would feel like to be in his place.  I wondered what he had hoped for when he rolled up his pants and plunged into the river, what it felt like to be confident enough to try to outrun a team of armed guards, I wondered if he wished they had left him for dead.


I attempted small talk in my broken Spanish but  with his diaphragm partially paralyzed Juan was too weak to breathe on his own and he struggled to whisper even a few raspy words.   I lifted the sheet and saw his once strong body now limp. He had come to the US to work construction hearing there was good money in it, he wanted a better life for his wife and 4 children.  I listened to his heart and lungs. I knew that once he moved to a nursing home in Mexico not having the ability to even cough for himself a pneumonia would likely end his life. Today though his lungs were clear, his abdomen soft, and skin intact.  A bedsore would be his next danger, the weight of his bones would eventually press through dissolving his own flesh.


As I moved to leave he muttered something and though I couldn’t make it out his eyes pointed to the tray table in front of him. I moved my hands over the items, a cup with a straw, a hand mirror, a wire hair brush. At the brush he mumbled again and I picked it up and brought it near to him and he jutted out his chin.


“Mi barba,” he whispered.
Awkwardly I held the brush closer. He tilted his head back and began to rub his beard across the wires.  He closed his eyes and for a few seconds moved his chin back and forth, then with a comfortable look nodded again and his lips mouthed a silent, “gracias.”


I smiled acting like I wasn’t being crushed under the weight of my own helplessness, as if  I helped paralyzed people scratch their chins everyday. I walked out shivering for something other than my damp clothes and put together my report for rounds.


There are moments when Christ’s wounded body reveals itself as a persistent reality, moments when the veil that divides us from the divine is lifted and we see that there is no unsacred thing. We reach out to the broken person across from us and realize it is the grieving hand of Christ that meets us and then realize that we are the broken one.  In those moments  we accept our weakness but are not overcome and we become brave enough to ask for help. We know that in this world we will see the brutal wrath of hell but we will see heaven too and so we keep looking for it.



This year in the Liturgy of Life reading group we are meditating on ideas of suffering and faith. Please join us as we begin our next book, The Problem of Pain in another week. For more from Liturgy of Life you can subscribe here for occasional updates and emails (usually about one per week), like me on facebook, or join our facebook discussion group.

*Names and other details have been changed to protect this patient’s privacy.

Thanks for reading,