BRIDGEPORT—Maria Palacios, a member of the Catholic Charities of Fairfield County (CCFC) Immigration Team, departed today for the Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas where she will join a national Catholic Charities relief effort for immigrants.
As the federal immigration detention and release practices are rapidly shifting and great public attention has been focused on the needs of families, the Humanitarian Respite Center has been inundated with families to welcome and donations to process.
“The arrivals and needs of these families are not new and the dedicated staff and volunteers of Catholic Charities in the Rio Grande Valley have built an efficient and effective respite center. However, the current volume of needs and support exceeds their current capacity,” said Al Barber, CEO of Catholic Charities of Fairfield County.
Barber said the decision to send Palacios to Texas is a result of a call from Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley. She has requested a deployed Catholic Charities professional team to provide support and assistance to her existing staff so that systems can be put in place to respond to the current intensity.
During her 9-day journey, Palacios will meet up with other Catholic Charities’ caseworkers from across the United States.
Alex Arevalo, Director of Immigration Services for Catholic Charities of Fairfield County, said Palacios was chosen to take the mission trip for several reasons.
“First and foremost, there is a need for Spanish-speaking case managers and Maria is fluent in Spanish. In addition to that, Maria has extensive experience in this type of work,” he said.
Prior to coming to the Diocese of Bridgeport, Maria worked at Catholic Charities of Las Cruces where she provided case management for clients in need of U-Visas and those who were part of the Women Against Violence Act (WAVA).
Maria also spent last year at the border with Assumption Mission Associates through the Religious of Assumption, a Jesuit Volunteer Corp. There she taught English at a middle school to newcomers at a border town in Chaparral, New Mexico.
This time around, Maria anticipates helping to organize the thousands of donations that are delivered daily. She may also have the opportunity to provide some much needed case management services to the refugees.
During her trip, Maria will be keeping a journal which will be shared upon her return and she will keep the agency appraised of her journey so that updates can be posted via the Immigration and Catholic Charities Facebook pages.