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Mexican Christian pastor’s border shelter aids immigrants seeking asylum in the US

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For 24 years, Pastor Hector Silva has been running a shelter home for refugees in Mexico who are seeking asylum or work in the United States. It was built to hold 150 people, but it often holds hundreds more than its limit, he said.

“We are the one home that does this. There aren’t any others. We help the families who are seeking refuge in the U.S.,” he said.

As refugees and migrants flee their countries in hope of finding refuge and work in the U.S., they face a difficult and dangerous journey. To help these people, Silva founded a shelter near the border, Senda de Vida Casa del Emigrante, he told The Christian Post. In English, the name means “Way of Life Immigrant House.” As part of his ministry, he gives people fleeing their home countries a place to stay and hear the Gospel.

“I founded the shelter because I have a heart for families, people and the homeless,” Silva said.

Right now, the 12,916 square foot shelter holds 540 people, Silva said.

“It’s big, it’s very big,” he said.

Thirty-five of its current residents are children. “We report the children [who arrive alone] and find all of these issues. If they’re here, we find the time necessary to help,” Silva said.

Most of the shelter’s residents are from Spanish-speaking countries including Venezuela, Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Cuba, he said. Others come from as far away as Uganda, Cameroon, Sierra Leone and Ghana. Most want to enter the U.S.

A majority of people who’ve sought refuge at the shelter speak Spanish, Silva added. For those who don’t speak Spanish, Senda de Vida employs a translator.

While people stay at the shelter, Silva provides them with food, medicine, access to technology and child education, he said.

“Some time ago, we had 1,000 people. We would get overfilled. At 500, we’re kind of full. At 150, we’re all right with it,” he said. “At first it took a lot of patience to understand all the different cultures [in one place]. With compassion, we worked to understand each other.”

COVID-19 has made the plight of refugees even more difficult and has presented the ministry with new challenges, Silva said. Due to COVID-19, like many other countries, the U.S. closed its borders. Currently, 1,000 people who have stayed at Casa del Emigrante are waiting in Mexico to find out their U.S. immigration status.

People waiting for immigration courts to decide their cases are facing the longest immigration court backlog in history, due to the surge in new filings which reached 1,281,586 cases at the end of November, according to Border Report. For the average immigrant, getting a court decision on an immigration case now takes around 500 days.

Silva said he was unsure whether most people who’ve taken refuge at Senda de Vida Casa del Emigrante, were looking for asylum as refugees in the U.S. or seeking some other type of legal status. His ministry helps people who’ve applied to enter the U.S. legally and helps families find places to live in Mexico, he added.

Immigrants can apply for a visa to lawfully enter the U.S. if they have a job waiting for them in the U.S., are related to an American resident, win a green card lottery by coming from a country with low U.S. immigration rates, or if they are seeking asylum from violence, among other categories.

The average stay at Senda de Vida before COVID-19 was three to six months, Silva said.

To get to the U.S., people fleeing their home countries often pay cartels to transport them north. Doing so can be dangerous.

“People that pay to travel to the U.S. face danger,” said Silva. “People can be killed. Many of them are imprisoned for ransom by cartels when they get to North America. When they enter our shelter, we have seen that they face many dangers. We put them in the hands of immigration groups that can protect them.”

Recently, the number of people traveling north has increased, he said. In this wave of immigration, there are also more children than usual.

Immigration rates from Spanish-speaking countries correlate with events in U.S. politics, said Silva. After Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election, many people hoping to cross the border illegally believe the U.S. government will not send them back to their home countries.

“They are more confident that the government will not send them back,” he said. “I don’t really know, but that’s what they think. It’ll be better, they think.”

Silva said he also thinks the chance that more Latin Americans will be allowed to enter and stay in the U.S. will improve because of Biden’s election.

“It’s what I’m thinking too. I’m also thinking that they’re going to get an improvement to the way they enter the U.S. There’s going to be lots of change,” he said.

The number immigrants who are illegally entering the U.S. has substantially increased since the fall. In October and November 2020, U.S. Border Patrol apprehended 140,591 people. This represents the highest number of illegal immigrants found crossing the border in the last eight years, and almost 21,000 more than the average number for these two months.

In most years, illegal immigrant numbers are low from September to January, and peak in May.

Biden has promised to end many of the Trump administration’s border policies.

According to Biden’s website, his administration would not only put a stop to building a border wall within his first 100 days, but he would also give DACA recipients access to federal student loans and create “a roadmap for citizenship” for the 11 million to 14 million immigrants who are living in the U.S. illegally.

In 2018, the Trump administration released a proposal to provide a pathway for citizenship to up to 1.8 million young immigrants living in the country illegally, including DACA recipients, in exchange for $25 million toward the border wall and other changes to the immigration system. That plan, however, was opposed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Biden, who once supported having a barrier along the Southern border, now opposes border wall construction and said he would halt any remaining construction once he’s in office.

These policy changes will likely motivate more people to attempt border crossings illegally, Jose Luis Gonzalez, the coordinator of nongovernmental organization Guatemala Red Jesuita con Migrantes, told Bloomberg.

Gonzalez noted that the economic devastation caused by mass unemployment and hurricanes hitting Central American countries will also lead more people to join illegal mass caravans to the U.S.

“There are going to be caravans, and in the coming weeks it will increase,” said Gonzalez. “People are no longer scared of the coronavirus. They’re going hungry, they’ve lost everything and some towns are still flooded.”

“We defend the rights of immigrants on this side of the border,” Silva said, urging Christian in the U.S. to fund ways to help those seeking asylum in the U.S..
Sources:Christian Post

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Covid-19 ‘shakes’ Brazil; Most children and young people die

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Brazil has been one of the worst-hit nations by the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic but the unusual high deaths among babies have caused immense concerns. Despite overwhelming evidence based on data that Covid-19 rarely turns fatal for children, around 1,300 babies have died from coronavirus.

BBC did a feature on a Brazilian woman’s one-year-old son who died two months after he first displayed symptoms of Covid-19 in May last year. Jessika Ricarte took her son, Lucas, to a hospital after he developed a fever, then fatigue and slightly laboured breathing. The oxygen level was at a low 86 per cent but the doctor assured Jessika that Covid-19 was rare in children and sent her home with some antibiotics, reported BBC.

Jessika, a resident of Tamboril in Ceará, northeast Brazil, said that although some of the symptoms disappeared at the end of his 10-day antibiotics course, the tiredness remained, as per the report. On June 3, Lucas vomited repeatedly after having lunch, prompting Jessika to take him to a local hospital. He tested positive for Covid-19 and was transferred to a paediatric intensive care unit in Sobral, a municipality that was over two hours away.

Lucas was diagnosed there with a condition called multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS). A recent study, published in The Lancet, suggests that multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) is a newly identified and serious health condition associated with Covid-19. It is a rare but severe hyperinflammatory condition in children and adolescents that typically occurs 2–6 weeks after they are infected with the coronavirus.

MIS-C is an extreme immune response to the virus and can affect multiple organ systems, including cardiac, gastrointestinal, haematological, dermatological, neurological, respiratory, and renal systems. For the study, the researchers analysed 1,080 patients who met the MIS-C case definition and had sufficient clinical data for analysis of pre-existing factors.

Out of 1,080 patients, 431 were admitted to ICU on the same day as hospitalisation and 217 were admitted to ICU at least after a day of hospitalisation. The clinical signs and symptoms of MIS-C include cough, shortness of breath, vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, and abdominal pain, among others. Around 28 per cent of patients had decreased cardiac function, 36 per cent suffered shock, and around 2 per cent cases resulted in deaths.

Lucas was intubated after being diagnosed with MIS-C and suffered cardiac arrest while he was in the ICU, reported BBC. The doctor who was treating the kid said she was surprised at the seriousness of his condition since he did not have any risk factors in terms of comorbidities or overweight. A CT scan discovered that Lucas had had a stroke and later died after a sudden drop in heart rate and oxygen level, as per the report.

According to experts quoted by BBC, Brazil’s sheer number of Covid-19 cases have led to an increase in infection among babies and young children. While Brazil’s official data suggest that Covid-19 killed at least 852 children up to the age of nine, Dr Fatima Marinho, a leading epidemiologist from the University of São Paolo, did research that estimated the virus killed 2,060 children under nine years old, including 1,302 babies. Marinho told BBC that she is seeing more cases of MIS-C than ever before, highlighting that there is a misconception that children are at a zero risk for Covid-19.

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Russia prepares for devastating war; 30,000 more troops cross border; Ukraine shocked

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Thirty thousands of Russian troops massing near the Ukrainian border, convoys of tanks, and a deadly escalation in the grinding trench war in eastern Ukraine.

These storm clouds on Europe’s eastern flank are causing grave alarm in Washington and across the continent.

“We’re now seeing the largest concentration of Russian forces on Ukraine’s borders since 2014,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday after flying to NATO’s headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. “That is a deep concern not only to Ukraine, but to the United States.”

In a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin later in the day, President Joe Biden declared Washington’s “unwavering commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity” and “called on Russia to de-escalate tensions,” a White House readout said.

Western officials and experts are now trying to decipher what Moscow might be planning: Is Putin testing Biden’s mettle — or is he actually trying to spark a fresh military conflict on the fringes of Europe?

“The optimistic assessment is that this is meant to intimidate Ukraine,” said Michael Kofman, a senior research scientist at CNA, a research group based in Virginia. “The pessimistic assessment, which I think is a lower probability but nonetheless very worth considering, is that Russia is actually spoiling for a fight and that they’re looking to bait Ukraine into a miscalculation.”

Russia and Ukraine have been locked in conflict since 2014, when Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula and began supporting separatists in the country’s east. That war has rumbled on ever since, costing some 14,000 lives despite a series of shaky ceasefires.

But since March experts say they are witnessing something new.

Russia has started sending thousands of troops, tanks, artillery and other units to Crimea and regions along its 1,200-mile land border with Ukraine, according to Western governments and independent experts who monitor these maneuvers.

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The Russian troops number 40,000 in Crimea and another 40,000 in other regions along the border, Iuliia Mendel, spokeswoman for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Monday.

Given that the Russian military has an estimated 800,000 to 900,000 troops, “that would be approximately 10 percent of the Russian military’s total manpower,” according to Rob Lee, a former U.S. Marine who now tracks military deployments at the Department of War Studies at King’s College London.

Russia says these movements are “training missions,” Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Tuesday. But experts say they don’t fit the usual pattern for these wargames. Russian military officials haven’t provided the usual level of detail or forewarning.

“They are deliberately leaving their intentions ambiguous here,” Lee said.

Meanwhile, the fragile ceasefire that’s kept the Donbas conflict at a simmer has deteriorated, with more than 30 Ukrainian soldiers killed already this year, compared with 49 in 2020, Ukraine says.

In response, U.S. European Command has raised its threat level to the highest available, the New York Times reported. And it is planning to send two warships to the Black Sea, according to Turkey, which controls passage into it. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby declined to comment on both of these actions at recent briefings.

“If Russia acts recklessly,” Blinken told NBC News’ “Meet the Press” Sunday, “there will be consequences.”

After meeting Blinken on Tuesday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the “Russian buildup is taking place, not only along the border of Ukraine, but along the border of democratic world.”

The problem for these allies is that it is still unclear what Russia is trying to do — much less how the West might be able to respond.

“The force assembled is large and heavy and could go deep and do some ugly stuff to Ukraine,” said Vladimir Frolov, a former Russian diplomat. Is that what Russia intends to do? “I think an honest answer to your question would be: ‘I have no idea,'” he said.

Russia says it’s free to move troops internally however it likes.

“Russia has never been a threat to anyone and does not pose a threat,” Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters Monday.

The Kremlin has tried to turn the narrative on its head, accusing the U.S. and NATO of being the ones responsible for raising the temperature.

“There is absolutely nothing for American ships to be doing near our shores,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told Russian news wires. “We warn the United States that it will be better for them to stay far away from Crimea and our Black Sea coast. It will be for their own good.”

Ryabkov referred to the U.S. as an “adversary” — a word the U.S. uses to describe Russia, but a clear shift from Russia’s preferred term “partner” when referring to the U.S.

Many experts believe a Russian military offensive is not impossible but unlikely; it would be costly for Putin and it’s unclear what he would gain. The buildup has been slow and ostentatious, whereas a genuine invasion would be rapid and more covert.

More likely, according to these observers, is that Russia is attempting to intimidate Ukraine, perhaps to gain leverage in the stalled peace talks over the Donbas conflict.

Putin is also sending a message to Biden and Ukraine’s European allies, according to Fabrice Pothier, a consulting senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a London think tank.

Biden has deployed harsher rhetoric toward Putin compared with President Donald Trump, and last month the U.S. announced $125 million in military aid to Ukraine. Meanwhile, Ukraine is renewing calls to join NATO, something the alliance promised in 2008 but is vehemently opposed by Russia.

“Putin is testing what President Biden’s Russia-Ukraine policy is really made of,” said Pothier, NATO’s former head of policy planning. “Is the U.S. willing to go as far as providing either indirect or direct military support to Ukraine forces? Basically, is the U.S. willing to go into some kind of escalation with Russia?”

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