July 15, 2020 - Albuquerque, NM ABQ FaithWorks Collaborative is proud to announce a new working relationship with the ABQ Asylum Seekers Council. ABQ ASC will be based with FaithWorks out of First United UCC Church in Albuquerque, and will collaborate with FaithWorks staff and volunteers as it meets the needs of asylum seekers living in Albuquerque.
“We are thrilled to welcome the Asylum Seekers Council and Coordinator Jessica Corley, and look forward to our increased ability to bring wholeness to people living on the margins in our community, not the least of whom are our neighbors seeking asylum from violence and other trauma in their home countries,” said First United UCC Pastor Sue Joiner, ABQ FaithWorks board chair.
In early 2019, 5 faith-based organizations began to provide direct services to asylum seekers passing through Albuquerque on the way to their sponsor’s homes throughout the country. Each organization had a site coordinator who oversaw the various aspects of the service, which included housing, medical wellness checks, clothing, food, and travel arrangements for typically a bus full of 47 people. The efforts were intensive but short term, as most guests were on their way to their sponsors within 3-4 days. Overall, the 5 sites provided services to more than 1,400 individuals over the course of 5 months. The site coordinators formed a council to discuss best practices, coordination of services and shared resources.
As a result of federal policy changes, the asylum process was disrupted abruptly, and the 5 sites no longer received buses of asylum seekers. The council remained intact and continued to meet to address the issues facing asylum seekers along our border. Resources were shared with other communities across the border in Mexico where thousands of asylum seekers were stuck with little to no assistance.
The 5 Site Council, later renamed to ABQ ASC (Asylum Seekers Council), refocused its efforts to assist the emerging numbers of asylum seekers who remained in Albuquerque. Currently approximately 50 families have been identified, although more families are identified weekly as the services become better known. The people who have made Albuquerque their home while they await their asylum hearings have little to no resources and rely on ABQ ASC to help with emergency food, clothing, medical care, dental care, housing, legal services, etc. They are able to provide these services and many more through a series of volunteers and donations. The goal with each family is for them to become self-sufficient. Additional services provided may include assistance with work permits, obtaining driver’s licenses or ID’s, enrolling children in school, ESL classes through partner organizations, etc.
The volunteer structure begins with assigning a family to a Family Liaison. The liaison contacts the family and identifies the needs a family might have. This volunteer position requires fluency in Spanish. Weekly or monthly phone check-ins help liaisons remain involved and to begin to build relationships with each family so that they feel that they have an ally in the community. When service needs are identified, the liaison can rely on the next level of volunteers who provide specific services, for example, transportation to appointments, to the grocery store, to the dental clinic, etc. The transport team has a team leader who coordinates and organizes the transportation needs identified by the liaison. There are also several partner organizations that address more specific needs, like the NM Immigrant Law Center, which helps families file legal paperwork or build their cases.
Jessica Corley is the coordinator for ABQ ASC. Jessica’s responsibilities are to find additional resources for the families that already exist in our community, recruit volunteers, find funding sources, and coordinate with liaisons to make sure families’ needs are met. She holds a Master’s in Education and serves on the Immigration Task force at First Congregational UCC, on the Immigration Leadership Team for the Union For Reform Judaism Religious Action Center, and as a founding member of JASI (Jewish Asylum Seekers Initiative). She has traveled to the border numerous times to volunteer and bear witness to the dismantling of the asylum seeker policies in our country. Anyone who is interested in learning more or volunteering, may contact her at:
firstname.lastname@example.org or 505-333-8059.