Author Archives: Sr. Pamela Marie Buganski

Assisting those new to our country

May 6th, 2015 | Posted by Sr. Pamela Marie Buganski in Uncategorized - (1 Comments)

An emotional experience occurred last Friday night at the  Greyhound bus station in downtown San Antonio.

Alyssa Weinfurtner and Priscilla Avila, volunteers at the South Texas Human Rights Center, and I arrived to join other volunteers and learn from them how to care for the mothers and children who are released on bond from the Dilley Detention Center, and dropped off at the bus station in a van from Dilley each weekday night. We got to the bus station around 8:30 pm.

As we approached from one direction, we saw a group of women and children approaching from another.  As we held the door for them to enter the bus station, it suddenly dawned on me, that these were the persons whom we were meant to serve.  (Only God would arrange that we would arrive at the exact same time!  It was God’s way of showing us right from the start who was in charge of the evening!)

busstationHow did I know that these four mothers and five children were the ones just released from Dilley?  All the tell-tale signs:  No luggage, ill-fitting clothing, carrying a similar box lunch, looking scared.

The women and children moved toward one area of the old station and sat down together.  We looked around to find the volunteers who were to help them.  No volunteers.  Just us!  (We learned the volunteers were unable to go and did not get substitutes.)

We began by introducing ourselves in Spanish to one of the women and explaining our purpose in being there.  The look in the woman’s eyes is still before me…that reserved for ghosts or angels!  She hurried over to the others to tell them about us.

Each of us accompanied one mother with her child(ren) to the ticket desk while the fourth mother held their space in the station. The first woman was with Alyssa; everything was okay and she received her bus tickets based on the receipt she was carrying saying that a family member had purchased the ticket.  She would be taking a short trip to another Texas town with her six- year-old daughter, though her bus didn’t leave until 4:00 a.m.!

Priscilla accompanied the second mother and her five-year-old daughter. Again, all was in order and they received their tickets.  They, however, were taking a three-day bus trip.  As Priscilla continued to talk with her she realized that the woman had a money order but no money.  There was no way to cash the money order nearby at night.  Two of us gave her our last $20 bills so that she would have food along the way.

I accompanied the third mother, Eda, and her four-year-old son.  We also received the tickets.  Just as the others had done, I walked Eda through where the clock was on the wall and where she would stand in line when the 4:00 a.m. bus arrived. Eda had not seen her mom in seven  years and her son had never met his grandmother.

By this time, Alyssa was already working with the fourth mother, Elsy, who had a four- year-old daughter and a 12- year-old son with her.  Elsy’s paperwork was different than that of the others.  When Alyssa and the family approached the ticket desk, the number was not in the system.  Hmmm…..  Alyssa spoke with the family member several times on her phone.  An employee of the station finally helped us to realize that the ticket was good at a Tornado Bus Station not the Greyhound bus station!  The woman and the others were in a panic!  Of course, we would take her to the other station.

Before leaving the others at the Greyhound station, we each had time to say good-bye.  Each consisted of a long embrace and many tears on both sides. We told them about keeping their children with them at all times and about watching out for one another.  The ‘God bless you’s’ were in abundance.  We assured them of our continued prayers.  During this short time, there was already some laughter among us despite the sadness of the situation.

We got into the truck and drove Elsy and her children about 20 minutes to the Tornado Bus Station.  On the way, we heard more of their about crossing of the border.  Elsy had crossed the border with four of her children.  At some point, she realized that her 14-year-old daughter was no longer with the group. Her 18-year-old son went back to look for his sister telling his mother to continue on with the two youngest.  Elsy was apprehended on the US side of the border with her two children by the Border Patrol shortly afterward.  They were put though the system of processing which includes being in the hierlera, the ice box or freezer, as it is known.  Here persons are deliberately moved with minimal clothing to a very cold place where they will stay for hours or days.  It was in the hierlera that Elsy caught the eye of her son who signaled that he had not found his sister.  The son has already been deported back to El Salvador.  Elsy does not know where her daughter is.

What an emotional trauma!  How in the world was Elsy able to hold it together?  In our good-bye at the Tornado Bus Station where we placed Elsy in the care of a bus station Catholic employee, Elsy sobbed quietly when I told her during my hug that she was a good mother.

All of us had a difficult time getting to sleep after that experience.  We could not imagine what the women would have done, especially Elsy, without volunteers to help.

We trust that if God had taken such good care of the four families through our service, He would surely get them safely to their destinations.

Once again, timely miracles would not happen without the goodness and providence of God.

Thank you for your continued support and prayers!

Praying with women in detention

November 28th, 2014 | Posted by Sr. Pamela Marie Buganski in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Today I had a chapel visit with about a dozen women in the Falfurrias Detention Center.

It is the fourth prison/jail/detention center I’ve seen this year.  This experience was much like the other three but, this time I was allowed to be with the 48 women being held in one of two rooms for women in the Falfurrias Detention Center. It holds over 622 persons.  It is stark, clean, relatively new, and lonely.

I had no idea what to expect when I walked in.  At first no one approached me, so I just moved forward slowly.  One woman came toward me and said “Bienvenidos” (welcome).  I greeted her with a hug and she said her name was Olga.

Sr. Pam on the cover of South Texas Catholic magazine, published by the Diocese of Corpus Christi

Sr. Pam on the cover of South Texas Catholic magazine, published by the Diocese of Corpus Christi

God kicked in with my best Spanish (as no one spoke English except for the guards), and we began to talk. Other women began to drift over.  I again welcomed each one, asking her name and giving her a warm hug.  Soon six of us stood and formed a circle holding hands as they wanted to pray.  I asked Olga to lead us in prayer.  Each of the women bowed her head, closed her eyes, and together we prayed the Our Father, and then each began to pray aloud quietly in her own words. Words of prayer were bathed in silent tears.  I have witnessed and participated in this kind of prayer multiple times among women and families while in Guatemala.  I have never been among persons of greater faith.

After singing a song, a guard entered the room and called for “la conta” (head count).  Everyone lined up against one of two walls in silence.  I was allowed to stay while each name was read aloud.  After responding, each woman was allowed to leave the wall.

Following this the women brought their Spanish Bibles to a large picnic table.  We had 14 women sharing and our hearts were even closer.  God was yet closer.  Olga selected the first passage and Victoria who sat next to her read the passage aloud.  She selected the parable of Jesus forgiving the sins of the paralytic and then curing him so that he could walk. The Word was powerful.  I then asked the women to share their words regarding the passage, what it meant to them.  Several shared.  We repeated this with two other equally moving passages. The Word was close to these women. The sharing took place among smiles and tears.

I learned that those sitting with me today were all from Mexico, Honduras or Guatemala. After that introduction, one of the women said that we are all sisters, that color or country does not matter here.  Indeed, I could feel that.  I encouraged them to be Sister to one another.  I felt that in this place and at this moment, truly the Kingdom of God was alive like in no other.

Ninety minutes after arriving and before leaving, we prayed together again holding hands, this time in words of gratitude to God.  I proceeded to stand up and to give each one a big hug before I left.

Thank you for your support and prayers….especially for these women. I am curious, which words of the Scriptures or words of Jesus came to your mind as you read my story today?  Sr. Pam

Enforcement on the border

October 10th, 2014 | Posted by Sr. Pamela Marie Buganski in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

I am reading a book called Beyond Smoke and Mirrors:  Mexican Immigration in an Era of Economic Integration by Douglas S. Massy, Jorge Durand and Nolan J. Malone.  Although it was published in 2002 the information based on empirical data is a good summary of immigration at the southern border up to 2002.

After reading the “Enlisting in the War on Drugs” chapter I remembered the enactment of the 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act that officially broadened the Border Patrol’s duties to include narcotics as well as immigration enforcement.

Now it is difficult to distinguish who is who as both groups travel in the darkness of the underworld. This lack of distinction opens the door to treating refugees as criminals.

In the Border Patrol meetings that I attend, there has been a sharing of video recordings of the capture of border-crossers taken from a device called a tethered aerostat balloon.  If you saw the balloon, you would think it was a blimp.  Basically, it is an unmanned radar and camera system that can fly as high as 15,000 feet and records 24/7. The information collected is available to NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) andblimp U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The Aerostat, makes catching drug smugglers and people smugglers less time- and labor-intensive, and is an example of how this one resource can assist in both areas.  Perhaps its use could also be extended to assist in rescue and in the issuance of humanitarian aid!

The Aerostat also takes away the privacy of anyone in a 20 mile radius.  The Aerostat flies within the 100-Mile Border Zone, sometimes referred to near the southern border as “the constitution-free zone” – it seems that efforts at border protection trump any constitutional freedoms.  To see a map of the 100-Mile Border Zone click here.  It is thought provoking.

Thank you for your support and prayers.

Somewhere

September 18th, 2014 | Posted by Sr. Pamela Marie Buganski in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Dear Friends,

There is a lovely song that I think we might all be familiar with entitled Somewhere.  It was written by Leonard Bernstein and was made famous in the musical West Side Story.  The story revolves around rival gangs in New York, the Caucasian Jets and the immigrant gang, the Puerto Rican Sharks.  Of course, the lovers in the drama cross cultural boundaries, leading to warnings, jealousy and death.  Three of the gang leaders are killed including Maria’s brother, Bernardo, leader of the Sharks, and her intended husband, Tony, a reformed leader of the Jets.  The tragedy ends with members of the Jets and the Sharks carrying the body of Tony.

Why does it take the death of someone to bring adversaries together?

chalk_draw

As I listened to the words of the song I became aware that the lyrics apply to our current situation at the border and throughout the USA.  I can hear a migrant-refugee praying for his family in the lyrics, can you?  I can hear the longing of a migrant-refugee mother in the music, can you?  I can hear the dreams of a migrant-refugee child in them both, can you?

“There’s a place for us, Somewhere a place for us. Peace and quiet and open air – Wait for us – Somewhere.

There’s a time for us, Someday a time for us,
Time together with time spare,
Time to learn, time to care,
Some day!

Somewhere.
We’ll find a new way of living,
We’ll find a way of forgiving
Somewhere . . .

There’s a place for us, A time and place for us.
Hold my hand and we’re halfway there.
Hold my hand and I’ll take you there
Somehow, Someday, Somewhere!”

Sr. Pam

 

Learning from the experience of others

September 7th, 2014 | Posted by Sr. Pamela Marie Buganski in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Dear Friends,

Eddie and I have been privileged to work with Genevieve from No More Deaths (NMD) in Arizona to learn the tools and systems that NMD have in place to assist with search and rescue as well as search and recovery. Genevieve is here in our office at the South Texas Human Rights Center for a few days using our cases to introduce us to their process. The willingness to share freely what NMD has learned through years of hard work and revision is amazing!  (NMD has been in existence for ten years and has hundreds of full and part-time volunteers and many programs. Their website is: www.NoMoreDeaths.org).

IMG_1480Besides having an intake form on a missing person which consists of the story in words, Genevieve draws a picture of the details. It is like a story map. By using google maps, an attempt is made to connect the dots in order to give a more probable educated guess on the actual path taken through the desert wilderness.  Zeroing in on the location of a person is important before sending out a team from the sherrif’s office or border patrol because of the need for permission to search on private ranch land.

Genevieve made an interesting observation that helped me to visualize the situation along the border. There are four border states: CA, AZ, NM and TX (moving from west to east). A person crossing in CA has the best chance of living through the event and the best chance of getting caught in the process.  A person crossing in AZ has a 50-50 chance of living through the event and of being caught.  A person crossing in TX (particularly the further west one goes) has a high likelihood of dying and the best chance of not getting caught. Recent months have seen the shift of movement to the east leading to more deaths.

1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.

“. . . Look to the interests of others.”

September 5th, 2014 | Posted by Sr. Pamela Marie Buganski in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

I attended my first border patrol meeting with my fellow volunteer and director of the South Texas Human Rights Center, Eddie Canales. I was introduced to the ranchers and able to associate names with faces. We met at the Border Patrol station in Falfurrias.

About 25 border patrol supervisors, a few from the US Army, the Border Patrol station staff, about 30 ranchers, and a few others attended. borderpatrolThis monthly meeting was to update the local ranchers on Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) initiatives, allow for sharing of ideas and concerns, and to build a working relationship between the CBP and the ranchers. The atmosphere in the room was one of listening, honesty, and openness.

The CBP and the ranchers ultimately want to prevent migrant-refugees from entering the US, eliminating the need for search and rescue or for search and recovery. Evidence shows, however, no matter the size of the fences, the number of inspection stations, or the multiplication of military personnel, the driving forces are greater than the deterrents and the migrant-refugees, including record numbers of women and children, keep coming.

The CBP and the coyotes (persons who are paid to smuggle others across the border) are in a constant strategic war.

One rancher asked why it takes so many hours to find migrants after receiving a 911 alert. I was touched by the rancher’s compassion. No one wants anyone to die.

Some new members of the Texas National Guard to be deployed have specifically volunteered to be part of the search and rescue operations.  Additional manpower along with greater use of cell phones and 911 calls by the migrant-refugees will hopefully result in more rescues and fewer deaths.

I would like to see the use of names such as “aliens” and “illegals” (used by CBP) and “wetbacks” (used by ranchers) change. These people are migrant-refugees. Words do matter. I would also like the level of humanitarian concerns to be higher on the meeting agendas – from its current fourth place behind prevention, apprehension, and property rights.

This is a controversial and complex issue. Many are personally affected daily in a negative way by the migrant-refugees in the area, and the patient participation I witnessed in this meeting was remarkable. Thank you for your support and prayers.

 Philippians 2:4  “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

One search continues. . . another begins

August 29th, 2014 | Posted by Sr. Pamela Marie Buganski in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Since my last report we have continued to look for the missing young man, Julio, without success.  Every day his father calls Eddie to check about the search.  The second place that we looked was under a roadway bridge. People had been there at one point because we found rusted out food cans and a very trampled and weather-beaten cell phone. I am currently inquiring about information on the phone that is still readable. The third place we hope to check is a construction site which has not been open.

I am beginning to understand a barrier to our searches – fences.  Fences keep us out, and we can hardly see anything from the road.  We’ve learned that the migrants run 30 to 45 minutes in from the roadway. So we try to narrow down which ranch they might be on and then get permission to go in. Neither is a simple process.

Marcelino is also looking for a missing migrant. He has been in our office for two days.  I believe that he has been asked to pursue the missing relative because he himself has papers.  Family members without papers do not wish to expose themselves in the search.  He shares the information he has and then he sits.  He sits all day, without complaint.  He waits for new evidence or a phone call to say that his friend has been found.  Eddie has been working on this case since last week.  Eight persons were left behind in small groups, yet Marcelino’s friend was left alone.  None have been found.  Eddie shares any information that he gets with the border patrol who have been looking at this time.  Everyday Eddie calls local sheriffs and the border patrol to see if anyone has been found.  Marcelino is here again today.

helicopterYesterday, I took my first intake by phone. The caller speaks English and  is “a friend of a friend.” Dany, from Honduras, has not been heard from in three weeks. He was left behind in our area when he could no longer walk.  The woman is to call back today after talking with Dany’s mother in Honduras to try to get more details.

Later on the way to look at the construction site, we passed a low flying helicopter and border patrol on the ground.  We stopped to talk to the border patrol.  Seemingly about seven migrants were found alive.  One woman among them had already been taken by EMS.

Thank you for your support and prayers.

“. . .Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:41

Sr. Pam shares her “search” experience in Texas

August 22nd, 2014 | Posted by Sr. Pamela Marie Buganski in Uncategorized - (1 Comments)

I have been in Falfurrias, TX, now for three weeks. (six SNDs are now ministering in Texas).

On August 12, Eddie, a co-worker at the South Texas Human Rights Center (STHRC) received a call from a distraught dad. The man had work authorization papers and was employed in a northern U.S. state. His 20 year old son had left their home in Guatemala on July 9 in an attempt to cross the Mexico-US border to join him. Though father and son had managed to communicate during most of the journey, suddenly the communication stopped. Receiving news that his son had been left behind due to the inability to continue, the dad called STHRC, “Could you please find my son?”

Given the dates and knowing the desert terrain it seemed most likely that we at STHRC might be looking for the remains of the young man.

The father gave Eddie these clues: The young man and his group had fled from a car at a given intersection and had run for about an hour. When the young man could no longer move forward, he was left under a tree. Somewhere nearby were little mountains and water.

Three of us from STHRC followed the clues driving nine miles west from Falfurrias to the intersection where the boys started running north. We drove on the two-lane mostly deserted road with nothing but flat land, desert brush, cacti, and low bushes on both sides. The terrain was impenetrable to the eye; even the earth right next to the road was invisible due to high grasses. Since the land was flat, the little mountains would be evident.  Since the land was parched, the water would be evident. Since there were lots of bushes but few trees, the tree would be evident. Or so we hoped.

Eddie looking near the tree (little mountains in the background).

Eddie looking near the tree (little mountains in the background).

We estimated that we were working within a five mile radius. But we had more questions than answers.  How far from the road had they run? Which side of the road?  How fast could they run through the sand, cacti and bushes? Did they lose their direction? Truly, we were looking for a needle in a haystack.

A little beyond five miles, a rancher was using big equipment digging a caliche pit extracting earth that had a high content of gravel. In the process, mounds of dirt had been formed. It seemed we had found the little mountains. We inspected the area on foot but found nothing.

We retraced our drive paying attention to the other side of the road. Eddie walked near the fence (most properties have wire fencing) through the tall grasses looking for breaks in the fence. Nothing.

We did note that where the little mountains were still visible a road sign indicated that we were crossing a creek.  A lovely shade tree was right there. Perhaps the young man had been left here. Once again Eddie walked through the tall grasses to the tree. No water was visible but we were convinced that this would have been the ideal place to leave the young man based on the clues and the surroundings. Being in a neighboring county, Eddie called the sheriff of that county. The sheriff said they had not found anyone dead or alive recently in that area. Another dead-end.

Eddie called the dad to report on our search and our suspicions that his son had been left under a particular tree.  Eddie continued to probe the dad with questions. It seems that we really do need to find a place where there are little mountains, a tree and real water.

The search continues.

Thank you for your support and prayers.