Advent Week 1: Staying Awake

“The night is advanced, the day is at hand.” – Romans 13: 12

Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center“Stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.” These words greet us on the first Sunday of Advent. We are invited to consider how we can remain always prepared to usher in God’s reign of justice and peace.

Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center in El Paso, Texas, was founded in 1987 to respond to the needs of Central American immigrants seeking refuge across the border. For 35 years, Las Americas has provided legal assistance for low-income immigrants and engaged in advocacy for human rights.

Marisa Limón Garza, executive director at Las Americas, reflected on what it means to “remain awake” as an organization working at the border. “Organizations situated at the border cannot look away from the injustice of U.S. immigration policies. We have to be ready for whatever comes,” she said.

Given the constant changes in border policy and the ever-present need of migrants, Christina Garcia, deputy director at Las Americas, remarked that staying prepared is a juggling act. It requires constantly reflecting on their capacity, resources, and where they can best leverage what they have to serve the community.

“We are always asking ourselves, in this particular moment, how are we uniquely equipped to help a given immigrant community or situation?” Garcia reflected. “How are we being invited to act?”

Limón Garza gave a recent example of when Las Americas responded to an unexpected need. In late September, a group of migrants who had recently crossed the border into a neighboring county from El Paso were shot at by two U.S. citizen brothers. One man was killed, another woman critically wounded. Several of the surviving migrants were taken into ICE custody and were detained.

In the following weeks, Las Americas staff began working on behalf of the migrants who were victims of this crime and their families. “We consider this a hate crime. Given our mission and our background working with victims of crime, we felt it was our role to stand in solidarity and accompany these migrants and their families,” said Limón Garza.

Las Americas staff fielded calls from family members of the deceased man and those who remained in detention for almost four weeks. They extended help and comfort where possible. Working together with the Mexican consulate, they supported the family of the deceased as they worked to repatriate their loved one’s remains across the border. They fought for the release of the detained migrants who were victims of the crime and continue to make sure they find the healing and assistance they need.

“The mother of one of the young men who was shot at and was detained called us and asked, ‘Is my son safe? Is he getting enough to eat in detention?’” Limón Garza recounted. “Our legal assistant, who is working with the woman’s son, and who is a mother herself, told her that she would tell the young man to ‘Eat up, your mother says so.’”

“This story represents an example of the best of Las Americas — convening in real time, using our community connections and resources to talk to the right people and take the right steps to advocate for the vulnerable,” said Limón Garza. “Even in these darkest spaces, we find hope in that we’re still human with each other. We hold space for suffering, and we speak to the humanity and dignity of the vulnerable. We hold out hope that migrants will get the healing and justice that they need.”

Questions for reflection:

  1. Through what practices can you remain “awake” to God’s work in your life?
  2. How can you practice being “always prepared” to welcome God in the migrant or stranger?

This reflection is part of CLINIC's 2022 Advent reflection guide. Click here to download the full guide.