Daniel Garcia, of Oklahoma City, remembers standing on the roof of a building in his native Honduras, watching as people boarded the “The Beast,” bound for what they hoped would be a better life.
Garcia, 35, said that, during his visits back home between 2009 and 2011, he saw numerous men, women and children hop onto the “giant” freight trains snaking their way through Central America and southern Mexico to northern destinations along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“I used to see the train right in front of my house,” he said. “In Honduras, the boys are ‘recruited’ — forced — to be gang members and robbers, and so their parents say, ‘Go to the United States to see an aunt or uncle, maybe you can get a better life.’ ”
Garcia is among several members of predominantly Latino churches in the Oklahoma City area voicing concern for the immigrant children being housed at Fort Sill near Lawton and at other locations across the United States.
At Garcia’s church, Iglesia Bautista de Quail Springs in northwest Oklahoma City, and at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in south Oklahoma City, prayers are being offered on a regular basis for a faith-ful and just resolution to the crisis surrounding the unaccompanied minors illegally crossing the border into America.
The Rev. Felix Cabrera, senior pastor at Iglesia Bautista de Quail Springs, 14613 N May, said as a clergy leader, he finds himself in “a delicate situation” when it comes to the immigrant children because he is aware they entered America illegally.
However, he said he is being led by his faith to reach out to the youths, and he and his church members have completed applications to serve as volunteer translators and provide other services for the minors.
“As a pastor, I need to be careful about the mix of politics and Christianity, but my call is to serve and help,” he said.
Prayers and empathy
Several Latinos interviewed by The Oklahoman said they identify with the desire for a better life that prompts children and adults from Central America and Mexico to slip across the border into the United States.
They understand why the people come despite knowing the journey will be difficult — even harrowing.
“That’s why the Mexicans come here, so we can live better, so we can have jobs, and we can be able to get things that we want,” said Maria Jimenez, a member of Sacred Heart who attended a recent Mass at the church, 2706 S Shartel, with her husband, Javier, and their children.
“We are praying for them,” Javier Jimenez said.
Another parishioner, Patricia Mascote, 15, said she prays for the children at night.
“I always pray for them (children at Fort Sill) and the children who are homeless over there (Central America) and stuck in that situation.”
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