Bishop Cantú,, Bishop of the Diocese of Las Cruces, would like to thank the many volunteers, and donors that came forward in support of our humanitarian outreach program, entitled Project Oak Tree. Today, we ask that all donations (monetary and goods) and volunteers cease until further notice. We do not anticipate having any refugees this week, and the donations we have received have been sufficient for the time being.
Project Oak Tree comes from the Book of Genesis, Chapter 18. In the heat of day, when Abraham looked up, he saw three men standing nearby his tent. He washed their feet and bowed low to the ground. Abraham asked to bring his three guests something to eat, to refresh them so that they could be on their way.
Project Oak Tree has addressed the humanitarian crisis of women and children from Central America crossing the US-Mexico border. This crisis called for all Americans to unite in caring for these families.
Project Oak Tree’s community outreach program provided food, shelter, and clothing as well as bus tickets for families. We extend our gratitude to Casa de Peregrinos who received food for the families Additionally, Catholic Charities Store received clothing items and dry goods. The community support has been remarkable, and the families are very grateful for your support especially for the children. Assistance supported the needed critical areas, such as volunteers for a medical team, kitchen crew, logistics support, shuttle drivers to the bus stations, organizing clothing and donation items, clean-up crews, for care packages for travel to include food and water, etc.
Much prayer is needed in our country and in the countries in Central and South America as well as in our world. We have a Gospel mandate in Mathew 25:35-36: “For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’
This is a humanitarian response to assist single parents with children who are fleeing some of the most violent countries in the world. Many of them may qualify for asylum or are applying for it. All have been detained by the Border Patrol and processed by U. S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), given orders to report to a specified ICE office, and then turned over to the Diocese’s Project Oak Tree for temporary shelter until transportation can be arranged to get them to a relative’s home. All of this is done in accordance with United States law.
The Diocese does not make any decisions regarding who should be placed into this program. It is simply providing temporary shelter and assistance for people in need, at the request of the Federal Government. The Diocese makes no judgment regarding the status of any of the people sent to us for temporary shelter.
This is a matter of social justice and human dignity. The Church views this situation as one of severe humanitarian need. We are providing food, shelter, and clothing to persons the United States is allowing to stay in this country temporarily pending the outcome of hearings to determine whether they may remain. The Catholic Church firmly believes that, in accord with the dignity of every human person, these refugees must be provided their essential needs (food, clothing, shelter) until they can reach their relatives already in the United States, as provided by United States law.