*This post was written before the coronavirus became a global epidemic. We realize that hosting anyone under these new circumstances is even more complicated now, but even so, we think it’s important to consider the challenges that hosts face, as many are dealing with this virus in addition to the difficulties that come with hosting.
Have you ever considered being a host person/family for someone at the US/Mexican Border who is fleeing violence and seeking asylum? If so, this is for you. Here are 11 things that the host family has encountered so far, written by Lucy, a wife and mother of 2 with a part-time job who is currently hosting an Asylum seeker and her son:
First off, know that your compa (a word for the person you will be hosting) will need work, friends, food, shelter, rest, transportation, a lawyer, and a phone, among other things.
Problem 1. Your Spanish is lousy.
Solution -Recruit your Spanish speaking friends to help, get a translation app for your phone and take some Spanish classes
Problem 2. It is expensive.
Solution -Help your compa find a job (There are legal limitations to this). Find “angel” friends who can help with the expenses.
Problem 3. They don’t have insurance, and they might get sick.
Solution -Find free or low-cost health and dental clinics nearby. Also, no dangerous activities… no trampolines, no football, no skiing, etc.
Problem 4 …Mental health.
Solution – Help your compa find Spanish speaking friends and a therapist, if possible. Here in our state, Holy Cross ministries provide free mental health care for some Spanish speakers
Problem 5 -Miscommunications.
Solution -Try to think about as many personal quirks as possible and hammer out rules ahead of time. Maybe you don’t want the compa to touch your yogurt. Maybe your compa needs to stay on the main floor. Maybe there is a list on the fridge for your compa to write down when the milk is almost empty. Maybe it is important that your compa’s room is spotless, or whatever….try to explain the rules early.
Problem 6 -Getting your compa to ICE appointments …
Solution -Find a friend to help you take them…even better, teach your compa how to use public transportation.
Problem 7 -You are told that your compa will eventually be sent back to dangerous country.
Solution -In some cases, a small infusion of money can keep your compa safe if they are sent back. This can be complicated by gang extortion, but it may be possible for you to help you compa when they are sent back.
Problem 8 -The compa isn’t listening to my suggestions about what to do.
Solution -Ok….This is a tough one for me to internalize. Compas have been through some difficult things, and I need to trust that they have ideas that have worked in the past. I can explain why I think doing something in a particular way is best but I need to let the compa do what they think is best. The compas should be making the decisions, making the calls, and talking to people themselves whenever possible.
Problem 9 -The people at ICE don’t speak Spanish.
Solution-Bring a translator when you need anything from ICE. After you know that a particular office has Spanish speakers, you are good to go. In our city, the people at ICE, including security, don’t have even basic Spanish skills. There is a court translator for in court needs. The ISAP office (keep track of compas for ice) have several Spanish speakers.
Problem 10 -School registration.
Solution -I’ve got nothing here. Our school district is filled with rock stars. Everyone has been amazing.
Problem 11– Your compa will absolutely need a lawyer to have any chance of staying in the US. The criteria are very strict and there is no room for errors. Pro bono (free) lawyers only take children’s cases or particularly strong cases. Lawyers usually start at about $4000 and can easily be $12,000.
Solution – Try Go fund me. I’m lucky that my folks are helping with this.
*BONUS-find a local chapter of SURJ and listen to them online and at meetings. Allow them to challenge your thinking.
…So, would you/could you do it? Is hosting right for you and your family? Are you up for it?