Casa Alitas

By | September 13, 2019


I.C.E. HELPS COORDINATE EFFORTS TO PLACE IMMIGRANTS IN SHELTERS AND OTHER NON-GOVERNMENTAL AGENCIES. IN TUCSON, CASA ALITAS IS WORKING TO SUPPORT THE NEEDS OF IMMIGRANTS AWAITING THEIR COURT DATE. NANCY MONTOYA TAKES US INSIDE A SHELTER THAT HAS HELPED MORE THAN 4,700 MEN, WOMEN, AND CHILDREN IN THE LAST TWO YEARS.>>Reporter: THE DOORS TO CASA ALITAS OPENED TO IMMIGRANT FAMILIES IN 2015. SINCE DAY ONE, PAM BONDRAK, A RETIRED PEDIATRIC NURSE, HAS BEEN A REGULAR VOLUNTEER.>>MOSTLY WE ARE SEEING CHILDREN AND MOMS AND EVEN GRANDMAS. THESE ARE THE MOST INNOCENT, LOVING PEOPLE, AND ALL THEY WANT IS A CHANCE. THEY JUST WANT A CHANCE IN AMERICA. THEY LOVE THIS COUNTRY.>>Reporter: 9-YEAR-OLD JENNIFER MARTINEZ WAS QUICK TO TELL THE VOLUNTEER THAT SHE LOVES AMERICA BECAUSE SHE IS AN AMERICAN.>>Translator: MY DAUGHTER WAS BORN HERE, AND SO SHE DOESN’T WANT TO BE IN GUATEMALA. SHE WANTS TO BE HERE IN HER COUNTRY.>>Reporter: IN 2009, ALVINA MARTINEZ AND HER HUSBAND WERE IN THE U.S. ILLEGALLY WHEN JENNIFER WAS BORN. IN 2013, JENNIFER WAS 4 WHEN THEY WERE DEPORTED BACK TO GUATEMALA.>>Translator: THERE IN GUATEMALA, IT IS VERY SAD. WE DON’T HAVE ANYTHING. WE DON’T HAVE ENOUGH TO EAT, AND WE DON’T HAVE LAND. WE DON’T HAVE A HOUSE. WE HAVE NOTHING.>>Reporter: SO ALVINA AND HER HUSBAND VOWED THAT SOMEHOW, THEIR AMERICAN-BORN DAUGHTER WOULD BE RAISED IN THE U.S. THE HUSBAND LEFT FIRST. HE MADE IT TO CINCINNATI, OHIO, WHERE ALVINA HAS FIVE SISTERS. SOME ARE IN THIS COUNTRY LEGALLY. OTHERS ARE NOT. THE FAMILY POOLED THEIR MONEY AND SENT ALVINA ENOUGH FOR HER AND JENNIFER TO BUY BUS TICKETS FROM A REMOTE VILLAGE TO THE MEXICAN BORDER. TWICE THEY ONLY MADE IT TO MEXICO BEFORE BEING DEPORTED BACK TO GUATEMALA. ON THEIR THIRD ATTEMPT, THEY WERE ARRESTED AND SPENT THREE NIGHTS IN A MEXICAN JAIL. JENNIFER DIDN’T UNDERSTAND.>>Translator: WHY ARE WE HERE IN JAIL? WHO DID I KILL? I HAVE MY PAPERS. YES, SHE DOES. ALL I HAVE IS I.D. FROM GUATEMALA.>>Reporter: MEXICAN OFFICIALS EVENTUALLY RELEASED THE MOTHER AND DAUGHTER. THEY CONTINUED NORTH TO THE U.S. AND 20 DAYS LATER, THEY MADE IT TO NOGALES AND REQUESTS ASYLUM. IMMIGRATION OFFICIALS FOUND THEY HAD A CREDIBLE FEAR OF RETURNING TO THEIR HOME COUNTRY AND SET THEIR HEARING DATE FOR A FEW WEEKS IN CINCINNATI. IN 2014, THE NEXT STEP WOULD HAVE MEANT GETTING A RIDE TO THE TUCSON BUS STATION, WHERE IMMIGRANTS WOULD HAVE TO FEND FOR THEMSELVES. BUT LOCAL CHURCHES STEPPED IN. CASA ALITAS STARTED WITH A CASE OF GATORADE AND A FEW SNACKS FROM VOLUNTEERS AT THE BUS STATION. BUT MONTHS LATER, WHEN IMMIGRANTS KEPT COMING, CATHOLIC COMMUNITY SERVICES OF SOUTHERN ARIZONA KNEW STRUCTURE AND ORGANIZATION WERE NEEDED. THE EFFORTS MOVED INTO AN ALL-VOLUNTEER-OPERATED HOME OWNED AND MANAGED BY CCF. PAM BONDRAK HAS BEEN HERE SINCE THE VERY BEGINNING. SHE JOINS HUNDREDS OF OTHER VOLUNTEERS WHO ROTATE TO MAKE THE OPERATION RUN SMOOTHLY. EVERY DAY SHE SAYS THERE ARE NEW FAMILIES.>>THEY’RE COMING HERE WITH HOPE. THEY WANT TO WORK. THEY WANT TO HELP. THEY WANT TO CONTRIBUTE. AND IF ANYBODY STUDIES THE CULTURE AND STUDIES THE ECONOMICS, THESE ARE THE PEOPLE THAT GIVE TO AMERICA. THEY’RE NOT SITTING HOME PLAYING VIDEO GAMES. THEY ARE WORKING.>>Reporter: BUT NONE OF THIS WOULD BE POSSIBLE WITHOUT THE COOPERATION OF I.C.E. OFFICERS, WHO UPON ESTABLISHING A CREDIBLE FEAR STATUS AND SCHEDULING AN ASYLUM HEARING, THEN WORK SEAMLESSLY WITH CASA ALITAS AND DROP OFF IMMIGRANT FAMILIES. AT FIRST, SAYS TERESA FROM CASA ALITAS, THERE WAS A STRAINED RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN IMMIGRATION OFFICERS AND VOLUNTEERS.>>IT WENT FROM, YOU KNOW, FACELESS, NAMELESS AGENTS WHO WE WORKED WITH THE AT THE BEGINNING, WHO KIND OF DID THESE INVISIBLE DROPOFFS IN FRONT OF OUR FACILITY, TO FOLKS THAT WE KNOW BY NAME THAT CONTACT US BY PHONE, BY E-MAIL, BY TEXT, WHO SMILE AND WAVE WHEN THEY BRING FOLKS HERE.>>Reporter: SHE SAYS THE STORY OF CASA ALITAS IS ONE OF COMPASSIONATE INDIVIDUALS, FROM THE VOLUNTEERS WHO BRING THEIR TIME AND TALENTS TO THOSE WHO DONATE MONEY, FOOD, AND CLOTHES, AND TO THE I.C.E. OFFICERS WHO CONNECT THE FAMILIES TO THE NONPROFITS. VOLUNTEER PAM BONDRAK SAYS SHE LEFT HER ROSE-COLORED GLASSES AT HOME. SHE SAYS SHE KNOWS THERE MAY BE SOME DANGEROUS GANG MEMBERS TRYING TO HIDE AMONG THE DESPERATE. BUT SHE SAYS THOSE ARE NOT THE PEOPLE WHO COME TO CASA ALITAS.>>THEY’LL TELL YOU THAT WHEN THEY’RE HERE. WE JUST WANT TO WORK. WE WANT A CHANCE. WE WANT TO BE ABLE TO CONTRIBUTE TO AMERICA. AND THAT’S THE WHOLE STORY. THEY’RE NOTHING DANGEROUS OR FRIGHTENING ABOUT THEM. THEY’RE FULL OF HOPE.>>Reporter: AND HOPE, SAYS ALVINA, IS WHAT SHE AND HER DAUGHTER ARE HOLDING ON TO.

One thought on “Casa Alitas

  1. Annemarie Korp Post author

    What a great thing you are doing, Pam! Will show this to Juanito.

    Reply

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