Why do seekers leave their homelands?
In the past, most migrants crossing our southern border were single adults, primarily from Mexico, who came to the United States to find work. Today, those migrants are being joined by Central American families fleeing gang violence, extreme poverty and political persecution. These are the focus of The Guest House project.
Why do seekers come here?
Besides our economic opportunity and social stability, the United States has historically offered protection to foreign nationals who meet the international legal definition of "refugee". Congress voted that definition into U.S. immigration law in the Refugee Act of 1980. When people seeking refugee status present themselves at our border, they must apply for "asylum". This begins a long legal process which, if successful, leads to an official designation of "asylee". Asylees are protected from forced repatriation, and they're allowed to work in the U.S., apply for a Social Security card, travel overseas (by permission), and receive such benefits as Refugee Medical Assistance. After one year, successful asylees may apply for permanent resident status (a "green card"), and after another four years, apply for citizenship.
Why do seekers need our help?
The asylum process can take months to complete. In California last year, seekers who were ultimately granted asylum waited an average of 1,300 days for their cases to be resolved. During this process, asylum seekers are basically in limbo. For the first 150 days they are not authorized to seek employment. Family separation, periods of time spent in detention, legal uncertainty, and emotional scars from past traumas are among the burdens seekers must deal with. The Guest House project will alleviate many of these burdens for the seekers we are fortunate enough to assist. Temporary housing, pro bono legal and medical assistance, English language lessons, recreation, acculturation, worship opportunities, and simple Christian love will all be part of the hospitality we hope to extend to our guests. But the big picture is this: As Rev. Carrie Cesar expressed it in our Vision Statement, The Guest House will be a means, "To open up room for God's transforming work to change us and our guests to be more like Christ."