New Lions Club in El Paso..”Señal de Esperanza” “ Beacon of Hope”
By Joe Olvera ©, 2011
A new Lions Club that consists entirely of Mexicans who have migrated to the United States, is focusing on one of their service projects – seeing that youngsters and children who are being detained in two camps by the INS are well-treated, respected, and offered an opportunity to remain in the United States if relatives can be found. Otherwise, these children, aged from 5 to 11, will be returned to their country of origin – mainly, Mexico.
Hector Rodriguez, president of the 22-member group, said that his club is the only one in the United States that consists primarily of Mexicans and is the only one where meetings are held in Spanish. “These members are all professionals that have migrated to the U.S.,” Rodriguez said. “Our focus will be international relations, besides the projects which Lions Clubs all over the world are focused on, which is, serving the communities in which they live and work.”
Although the meetings are conducted in Spanish, members at each meeting recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the United States and salute to the Mexican flag. This newest club is one of 40 clubs belonging to District 2T3. At each meeting, the flags of Texas, the U.S., and Mexico are prominently and proudly displayed.
“Even though we will officially receive our charter on June 25 at the Lancers Club on the East side, we have already started one of our most important projects,” Rodriguez said. “We feel there is a void in El Paso concerning young children. There are two detention centers where children who are in the U.S. illegally are being detained – one is in San Elizario, the other is in Canutillo. These are kids who, for one reason or another were left behind either by coyotes or other evil people to fend for themselves. They are the lucky ones, the Border Patrol managed to pick them up and to offer them a safe haven while they await either a relative or someone to help them leave the centers.
“These children don’t know about borders, they are detained until their parents are located. Meanwhile, they are offered a safe and sanitary place in which to stay. They are not mistreated; on the contrary, they are very well treated. They receive their three meals a day, a comfortable bed in which to sleep, and activities to keep them busy. All too often they are escorted to a public park where they may play baseball, or where they are allowed to cavort as children are wont to do. The vast majority of these kids, from 40 to 80 at any one time remain anywhere from two weeks to two months. Lawyers are assigned to help them with their case. Like I said, these children are the lucky ones. The unlucky ones are those left behind to die in the desert.”
Rodriguez said that his group’s main wish is that the immigration officials at each center allow him and others to visit the children. Even though they are provided safe haven, they need to be able to speak to others like them, people who understand what the U.S. is all about and who can offer them spiritual services.
The group hopes that someday, they will be allowed to offer Catechism classes to the youngsters, at least to those who are Catholic.
“They already receive educational classes, arts and crafts activities, and the like,” Rodriguez said. “However, we feel that they need something more than that. It is our fervent wish that we will be allowed to visit with them, to speak to them, to make them feel more comfortable. These children are provided everything they need, at least until a relative is found, or until they are returned to their country of origin. We only want to offer them what we can, which, in our case is ‘ Señal de Esperanza,’ or, A Beacon of Hope. Meanwhile, we’re thankful the children are well cared for.”