Daniel Esparza – published on 03/12/23
As 250,000 migrants and asylum-seekers have arrived in the Miami area in the last 18 months, faith communities are reaching out to help.
In the past 18 months, an estimated 250,000 migrants and asylum-seekers have arrived in the Miami area. The precarious legal status that they are often offered does not include authorization for employment. Miami Catholics are reaching out to help.
As read in Giovanna Dell’Orto’s article for Crux, “The influx is maxing out the migrant social safety net even in Miami’s faith communities, which are long accustomed to integrating those escaping political persecution, a lack of freedoms and a dearth of basic necessities.” Indeed, the city has a long story of receiving and lending a helping hand to those who are forced to flee their countries (Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans), at least since the 1960s. Miami Catholics have successfully integrated most of these migrants to already existing faith communities.
Miami’s faith leaders and their respective congregations, Dell’Orto explains, “remain steadfast in their mission to help settle new migrants.” But the need for help and assistance is becoming unmanageable and could even worsen if federal reforms providing these new migrants work permits are not pushed for.
Peter Routsis-Arroyo, the CEO of Catholic Charities in Miami, told Crux that “we can get a call on a Saturday that 30 migrants were dropped off, and two hours later all have been picked up […] But the challenge is at what point you reach saturation.”
Exiled Nicaraguan priests
The Archbishop of Miami, Thomas Wenski, spoke last week to the Florida Catholic regarding the expected arrival in Miami of some of the political prisoners that the Nicaraguan government “exiled” to the U.S. Most of these former political prisoners were either politicians or candidates running for public office, whom Ortega locked up before the elections.
Among them, the archbishop explained, were “four or five Nicaraguan priests, a couple of seminarians, a deacon, and an organist.”
Whereas the Nicaraguan exiles were supposed to be housed at first by Nicaraguan families already residing in the U.S., Archbishop Wenski said he was able to offer the priests and seminarians longer term housing at St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami. “I’m offering them the hospitality of the seminary as well as the opportunity to get acclimated, acculturated and see what the next steps would be after that,” he said in declarations carried by the website of the Archdiocese of Miami.
Although the expectation is that many of the priests and seminarians would stay in Miami, “I’ve already heard from a few bishops [elsewhere in the US] who need Spanish-speaking priests who would be happy to help them out,” Archbishop Wenski said.