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Catholics help Venezuelan migrants entering the U.S.

Catholic churches in the United States are offering food and clothing to Venezuelan migrants who are entering by the thousands into the United States in order to escape the economic collapse in Venezuela. The churches are also assisting the migrants seeking asylum to access governmental services. The office of Catholic Charities in New York witnessed a sharp increase in the number of migrants approaching them throughout this year. The employees of Archdiocesan Catholic Charities were even transferred to help manage the migrants, and in some cases, employees even rescheduled their vacations in order to help. The migrants were provided with food, clothes and also a gift card of $50 and then guided to city government services to access more help.

National Catholic Register reports:

As thousands of Venezuelans fleeing economic collapse enter the United States seeking asylum, local Catholic churches are providing them food and clothing and helping them navigate government services.

In February, March and April, the Catholic Charities office in New York City saw about one or two people a week. In June, the numbers steadily increased, until one day in late June there were 14 in a single day, followed by 29 the next.

“And then from there, it began to escalate, to where we were seeing maybe 50 people in a day. And there were days when we saw over a hundred,” said Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, in a telephone interview with the Register.

Many came with immigration papers carrying the Catholic Charities office address in Manhattan, unbeknownst to Catholic Charities officials, who weren’t ready for them and could not handle all of their needs.

Archdiocesan Catholic Charities employees were transferred from other offices to help deal with the migrants, and some employees rescheduled vacations to help. They interviewed the migrants, gave them food, clothes and a $50 gift card, and directed them to city government services. (More recently, the city has set up a migrant intake center elsewhere in Manhattan; Catholic Charities has a presence there, including Spanish-speaking immigration lawyers.)

To get from Venezuela to the United States by land requires going through Colombia and a dangerous 66-mile stretch of jungle and rivers with no roads on the Colombia-Panama border called the Darién Gap — and then through at least five Central American countries and Mexico, with dangers from gangs and drug cartels.

“So these are people who really went through traumatic experiences. The first thing we did was say, ‘You’re welcome here. We’re going to try to figure this out,’” Msgr. Sullivan said. “And treated them with dignity and respect.”

Two parishes in Manhattan have run food pantries on certain weekends, assisted by Catholic Charities, he said.

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