Minda Schweizer, an ordained Presbyterian minister and pastor to refugees, founded Home for Refugees USA after witnessing the heartfelt impact resettlement partnerships had on both families and volunteers. The nonprofit, which received some initial funding from Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA), builds collaborative relationships between faith groups, communities, and refugee families, helping to ease the tragedy of displacement and loss as well as assisting them in rebuilding an independent, self-sufficient life in their new home in the United States. We are sharing Home for Refugees USA’s recent story in its entirety to demonstrate how our connectional church is working toward reunifying separated refugee families.
A Family Reunification Story
Home for Refugees is coming alongside 29 families whose children were separated from their parents at the United States-Mexico border. This past year these moms, dads, and kids have been reunited and are now being resettled around the country. Here is one of the families’ stories.
The Jimenez Family
Sancho Jimenez* had a happy life with his wife, Bella, and four kids. They lived in Jalapa which is outside of Guatemala City. One afternoon that all suddenly changed for Sancho after his middle son, Juan was targeted by local gang members. Sancho had to flee his home with Juan to make sure his son could be safe because Sancho knew that once you become a target in Guatemala by a gang, your life is in danger because you are always a target.
He and Juan started their journey alone, for it was far too expensive for all the family to go. They made their way to the United States-Mexico border, where they were hoping to ask for protection and to be considered for asylum. Sadly, they were met at the border with an executive order that broke them apart. Sancho then was deported, while his son remained in the United States.
On March 2, 2019, a year after the separation, the Jimenez family were brought to the United States-Mexico border again, but this time with the organizational backing of Home for Refugees, Al Otro Lado, Together Rising, Matthew 25, and World Relief. Sancho hoped to ask for asylum to be reunified with Juan. This time the Jimenez family got accepted into the United States asylum-seeking process, reunified with their son, and was settled by our collaborative project in Akron, Ohio. The Jimenez family is being cared for during their asylum-seeking legal process by their Home Team, mostly from Akron Christian Reformed Church, led by Nicole Herbert-Hale.
Safety Situation in Guatemala
The Northern Triangle of Central America, composed of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, is considered one of the most dangerous places on earth, which has caused unprecedented levels of migration. The United Nations High Commissioner for refugees has called this a humanitarian crisis. Many Central Americans are refugees who, like Syrians, fled for their lives to another country for protection because the governments of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras are unable to protect their citizens from the systemic gang violence caused by years of civil wars. Women and children are the most vulnerable in this crisis as they can easily become victims of rape, kidnapping, torture, or murder.
*Names have been changed for security reasons.
To learn more about what families and children encounter at the U.S./Mexico border, please visit our website for more information. If you are interested in advocating on behalf of refugees, Faith4asylum has some suggestions for how you and your church can get involved.