Catholic Asylum Center in California Racing to Help With Ongoing Migrant Surge

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Currents News Staff

Inside a small shelter in the eastern Coachella Valley, they’re in a race against time. Claudia Castorena is the founder and CFO of Galilee Center.

“We want to be ready ahead of time and prepare cots,” Claudia said.

She’s helping prepare their community room to house a bus full of asylum seekers recently released by immigration authorities.

“Right now, we are expecting 17 people from Murrieta and they’re going to be here in the next 20 to 25 minutes and then another bus from Yuma, 35 people,” Claudia said.

The buses come from nearby border towns. Those that test positive for COVID-19 are taken to hotels. Galilee Center provides them with food and clothing during their quarantine.Those that test negative are brought here.

“They receive everyday a clean pillow, pillow case, clean towel,” she said.

For Claudia, who came to this country as an undocumented immigrant, she says she is doing God’s work.

But not even a prophet could have prepared her for the latest immigrant surge.

“In the 30 years of providing social services, and human services in the Coachella valley . . . I’ve never seen it this way,” Claudia said.

Last year Galilee Center received a total of 125 migrants.

Since March, they’ve been getting that many every two to three days.

Exhausted, they stumble into the shelter with ankle monitors after being released by immigration authorities, capping off weeks on the road.

“Welcome to all of you,” Claudia said. “This is a Catholic shelter, we have no relation with immigration authorities.”

Claudia has hired 18 new people in the last few weeks, but it hasn’t been enough. So she’s running around helping Gabriela, a 21-year-old migrant woman shower and get clothes.

Gabriela says coming with her 2-year-old daughter was risky, but staying in Ecuador under the abuse of a relative was riskier.

“It was a hard decision,” Gabriela said. “Coming with my daughter was hard because sometimes we had nothing to eat, nothing to drink and she would ask for water or food and I had none to give her.”

One of the things that shocked her the most from the week-long journey was the number of people trying to come to the U.S.

“There were a lot of people,” she said. “A lot of migrants trying to get here. The ticket system for the bus had collapsed from all the people.”

Gabriela and the migrants will be here less than 24 hours, just long enough to shower, wash their clothes, eat, sleep and book the last leg of their trip.

Hours later a new set of buses will arrive to start the process all over again.

“We are helping, little by little, and even if it is one family at the time, that gives me a certain way of comfort in knowing that we made a difference for one family,” Claudia said.

Families that have come in search of a better life.