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because they want to come; one comes to ask for help,” she said. “Te government of Guatemala cannot protect us. Te same government is involved with the criminals. [We come] for the lives of our children because if we stay in our country, they could die.” When Lopez Lucas asked for


asylum as a refugee, it began a long process of paperwork. Unlike other forms of immigration, asylum can only be applied for once a person is on U.S. soil. Unlike illegal immi- grants, Lopez Lucas’ family and thousands of others have crossed the U.S. border in search of legal protection afforded by the U.S. government to people who can demonstrate a “well-founded fear of persecution” or “credible fear” in their home country.


From asylum to home When applications for asylum are approved, the families are released from detention centers and taken to the Greyhound bus station. As Doucette reports, the families didn’t always know where they were going. “[ICE] would just bring them to the bus station and dump them out,” she said. Te women and children were


dropped off with a bus ticket. No money. No food. No cellphone to call their family at the other end to let them know when they were arriving. Whether for lack of understanding the English lan- guage or for lack of literacy skills, most couldn’t read their bus tickets. Some were taking a three-day trip by bus, with toddlers in tow. Members of the Interfaith Wel- come Coalition immedi- ately saw a need to place volunteers at the bus station to help people through the process of getting to their new


‘One doesn’t come [to the U.S.] because they want to come; one comes to ask for help. The government of Gua-


temala cannot protect us. The same government is involved


with the criminals. [We come] for the lives of our children because if we stay in our country, they could die.’


homes. Te safe house was born out of the volunteers realizing that refugees were expected to sleep on the floor of the station with their children until their bus leſt, which in some cases could be days. “When these folks arrive at the


bus station, they have no expecta- tions,” Doucette said. “Tey are just so grateful that people are here to help them.” If Doucette finds a family who needs a place to stay until their bus


For more information about the Interfaith Welcome Coalition, visit http://texasiwc.org.


BOB OWEN/@ SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS/ ZUMA PRESS


This girl (left) and her mother are among many immigrants who risk the danger- ous journey to the U.S. seeking safety. A refugee from El Salvador (above right, name withheld for privacy) sells pupusas (similar to tamales) to women at the Interfaith Welcome Coalition meeting to raise money for travel expenses. She spent several months in detention with her son before being released.


December 2015 27


BOB OWEN/@ SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS/ ZUMA PRESS


ROSALINDA MALDONADO


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