Short-Term Volunteers for Emergency Hospitality

Update: as of May 2, 2019, we are no longer accepting short-term volunteers for the months of May, June or July due to the overwhelmingly positive response we have already received (thank you!) (We would consider making exceptions for people who can stay for 6 weeks or more.)

If you are interested in volunteering in August or later, please read this document and contact us about two months before you are interested in volunteering (contact instructions in PDF). We are not scheduling more than about two months out due to the unpredictability of the need.

We are ALWAYS accepting applications for year-long volunteers!

Original post: Beginning in summer 2018, we have seen an increase in the flow of refugees arriving at the El Paso border. As ICE detention facilities filled, the number of refugees being released by ICE increased.  As of the end of February 2019, 400-700+ refugees per day are being sent to Annunciation House.

We are urgently seeking additional short-term volunteers to help us provide hospitality to these refugees. For more information, please read this document (PDF).


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Press Conference – 2/11/2019 Truthful Border Narratives

Date: Monday, February 11, 2019

Time: 10:00 a.m. MST (doors open at 9:40 a.m.)

Location: 325 Leon Street
El Paso, Texas 79901

Facebook Live Stream

The separation of children from their parents continues. The narrative that refugees and immigrants are criminals is not true. Annunciation House and our partner organizations and faith communities have been providing hospitality to thousands of these families every week. The idea that refugees and immigrants make our country dangerous is not true. Rather, the truth is that they overwhelmingly become productive, contributing citizens of our community and of our country. 

Given the national attention being given to refugees and immigrants on our southern border, Annunciation House will hold a press conference with the objective of providing a more truthful narrative reflecting the reality of refugees on our Border. 

The speakers will include:

1. A refugee mother from Honduras forcibly separated for over 115 days from her three and four-year-old daughters by Border Patrol Agents on October 11, 2018.

2. A newly-arrived refugee parent who fled violence and persecution in Central America to lawfully seek asylum in the United States. 

3. A former refugee who was granted asylum in the United States and who has since become a valued member of our vibrant border community. 

Following the press conference, the speakers—along with Annunciation House Executive Director Ruben Garcia and Legal Coordinator Taylor Levy—will have limited availability for individual interviews with members of the press.

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Unannounced ICE releases

There has been an increase of refugees arriving to our border. This past weekend, there were three days of ICE releases directly to the streets of El Paso. Annunciation House—and our partner organizations, faith communities, and volunteers—are responding by providing hospitality to the increased number of refugee families being released by ICE in El Paso

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Press conference on the death of Jakelin Caal Maquin – the 7-year-old child who died in Border Patrol Custody

In this video, Annunciation House director Ruben Garcia reads a statement from the family of Jakelin Maquin Caal and answers questions from reporters. The video orientation corrects after the first few minutes.

Aqui el director de la Casa Anunciacion, Ruben Garcia, lee una declaracion de la familia de Jakelin Maquin Caal. Hay informacion en espaniol a mas o menos 13 minutos.

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The Honduran Caravan Speaks: Recognize This Humanitarian Crisis

The Caravan of Honduran refugees has released a statement calling on the United States and the United Nations to recognize their exodus as a HUMANITARIAN CRISIS and to recognize its participants as refugees “in need of international protection and humanitarian assistance.”

Please read the whole thing, and share.

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Press Conference – June 25



Annunciation House director Ruben Garcia and legal council Taylor Levy speak at a press conference regarding the release of undocumented parents and the challenges of reuniting them with their children.

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Fr. Ismael Moreno – 2018 Voice of the Voiceless Award

Fearless Honduran Priest to Receive

Annunciation House

2018 Voice of the Voiceless Award

moreno-protestAnnunciation House is pleased to announce the 2018 Voice of the Voiceless Award recipient: Father Ismael “Melo” Moreno, S.J. from Honduras, a resolute and intrepid defender of democracy, human rights, and freedom of expression in one of the most dangerous countries in the world. Father Melo is the director of Radio Progreso, an independent station that gives voice to human rights activists, trade unionists, small farmers, and others with little access to the elite- controlled national media. He also directs ERIC (Equipo de ReflexiOn, Investigacion y Comunicacion), a center for social action and analysis.

morenoAlong with other Honduran activists, Father Melo has received numerous and grave death threats for his criticism of the political corruption, extreme economic inequality, weak judicial and other corruption, extreme economic inequality, weak judicial and other institutions, militarization, and epidemic abuse and murder of members of vulnerable social groups in Honduras-circumstances that, in turn, drive the great migration of refugees from this and other Central American countries. The theme of the 2018 Voice of the Voiceless events is, IF THE WORLD KNEW... Fr. Melo’s work to uncover and broadcast truth exemplifies the hope that if the world knew, change would happen.

2018 Voice of the Voiceless: “If The World Knew”

Saturday, May 12,2018

6 p.m.-Solidarity Dinner, Santa Lucia Parish Hall


Purchase tickets here

More information about the work of Father. Ismael Moreno:

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Recipiente del galardon Voz de Los Sin Voz 2018

El recipiente del galardón Voz de Los Sin Voz 2018 es Padre Ismael “Melo” Moreno, S.J. Mas informacion en español sigue abajo.



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Giving the Shadow People to the Light this Advent

[Editor’s note: this essay was written by a former volunteer, Mary Fontana, for Annunciation House’s newsletter in the winter of 2004. It remains relevant today.]

It’s late—late in the day, in the year—and Olga is sweeping out her bedroom. She is thirty years old with big eyes and big brown freckles, an undocumented chilanga, a native of Mexico City. She wears soft, forgiving clothes from the clothing bank downstairs: baggy dark-blue sweatpants and a sweater I picked out, green with flowers embroidered down the button line. She has been a guest at Annunciation House for nearly two weeks, ever since delivering her firstborn child, Mariana, at Thomason General Hospital in El Paso. Olga is still recovering from the labor. She can’t walk upstairs, to where the women’s dormitory is. Instead she and the baby sleep in the white-walled clinic just off our office.

Mariana is tiny and perfect. She has fine black hair and cheeks like apricots. I hold her, wrapped in a fuzzy donated blanket, as Olga sweeps and sweeps. I have never seen Olga cleaning before: the new mother is exempt from the chores we assign to other guests. But today is a special day. Today, on the last day of October, Olga is waiting for her husband.

They’ve been married for three years, but Oscar has a work permit and a seasonal job in North Carolina and she hasn’t seen him in months. He called this morning. “I’m in Dallas,” he told Olga on the office phone. “I’m coming.”

Now we wait in a tight flutter of excitement. Olga continues to sweep. She is preparing, with the small gestures that are all she can make, to greet her husband. After the floor has been cleared of its few mummified cockroaches, Olga showers and combs out her long black hair. She has washed all of Mariana’s tiny clothes in the bathroom sink. They hang like pink and yellow flags on the bare wall of the clinic. And I’m buzzing around from the phone to the door to the window, outwardly more anxious than Olga. She is practiced in the art of waiting. Only Mariana seems completely unconcerned with the occasion, as she sighs and wraps slim fingers around my pinky. “Vas a conocerle a tu papi hoy,” I tell her.

It’s nearly ten o’clock at night when Oscar calls again and my heart curls up, thinking he’ll say he can’t make it tonight. “Where are you?” I ask, with Olga fast at my side. There’s a pause. Then: “Virginia and…let me see…Magoffin?” he replies. I practically squeal. One block away! I tell him how to get to Annunciation House and hang up the phone. Olga and I beam at each other like two lighthouses.

Five minutes later I’ve been distracted by some other urgency—a guest needing aspirin maybe, a phone call, I don’t remember—and I turn away from that demand to see Olga standing in the office door, her sleepy pink baby in her arms, and with them a man who could only be Oscar, so happy and right do the three of them look together. All around them the chaos of Annunciation House wells up: kids’ drawings of ghosts and pumpkins taped and flapping on the door frame above their heads, a heap of dirty dishtowels at their feet, the TV commenting loudly from the sala. But you could miss all that and see only Mariana, like a little sun, lighting up her parents’ faces as they bend over her.

And though Christmas is two months away, I think of its birth, its joy, and for the first time, its great tragedy—the wrenching instability of the stable. Olga brought her newborn child home to a refuge for the poor and indigent, a building by which the trucks and buses roar at all hours of the day and night, an old, leaky house held together by masking tape and prayer. Mary and Olga alike must have wondered, as they studied the freshly minted faces of their babies, what kind of futures they could possibly hope to shape for them. Futures begun in borrowed rooms where cold air crept under the doors. Futures hemmed in by the fences of poverty and itinerancy. I remember that when Olga brought Mariana home from the hospital she asked us, “They’ll let me stay here now, won’t they? They’ll let me stay with my baby?” I heard in her voice the incredulousness Mary must have felt when she hobbled into the stable, when she first saw that shabby, dirty cave where she was to give birth to the son of God. I want to plant my fists on my hips and talk up at the sky. This is your child! Are you going to watch her be shunted into a dark corner of the earth the moment she is born?

It’s almost too easy to invoke the Christmas story here, with Olga, where the parallels are so obvious: two families far from home, wanted by the law of the land, refugees with uncertain prospects and new babies to worry about. It’s also too easy to paint myself into the scene at the stable; after all, my house, Annunciation House, welcomed Olga and made a place for her. But there’s a more difficult truth at hand: Olga has orders from La Migra to present herself for deportation at the bridge as soon as she’s released from the hospital. She’s currently in violation of those orders. My country does not want her here. The United States is not the stable; it is an inn with no room.

Of course, Mariana is hardly the baby Jesus. The torrents of migrants knocking on our country’s doors are not the newborn children of God. No indeed—they are Christ crucified. They are the starving, the tortured, the uprooted, the slaves of poverty and corruption and violence. They are not saints: some of them steal and lie to us and shoot up on the roof of Annunciation House. But they have suffered, and where human beings suffer, there the Christ is.

Yes, it is Christ that enters our country illegally. It’s Christ who pays a coyote to smuggle him past immigration checkpoints. Christ hopping a train in the iron-cold dark. Christ who shrinks away from the window in quiet fear when the word is passed around the house: la Migra is outside. Christ picks the apples in my hometown of Yakima, Washington. Christ sends money to his wife in Guatemala. Christ misses her three kids, far away in Oaxaca with their grandmother.

Christ cannot vote in our country. He can hardly complain if his employer cheats him of wages, or insist on safe working conditions or health care. If the government takes any notice of him at all, it will be to deport him. So he keeps to the shadows, nameless and voiceless. So many men and women, relegated to the obscure corners of our country—a people walking in darkness, dwelling in the land of gloom.

In Spanish, Olga has told me, the expression for delivering a baby is dar a luz: to give to the light. As we shift into November and the days shorten, mornings and evenings smudging closer together, I wonder: how will we give birth to justice in this fine, wounded country? When will we give our shadow people to the light? Who will call them by name out of the shame and obscurity of ‘illegality’? When the next Olga and Oscar knock on our door, will we persist in telling them that we, the richest country in the world, have no room at the inn?

Advent is coming. It is the season of waiting, and of darkness—lit first by one candle, then two, three, four. And Annunciation House itself exists in perpetual advent. Its inhabitants wait: for a cousin in Denver to send money, for the patrón to call back with work, for papers to go through. We as a community wait as well for freedom to come down like a desert rainstorm, for the load of the poor to be lightened. We are an Advent people. All we can do is what Olga did as she waited in hushed expectancy for her husband: sweep out our rooms, make ready for our liberation to arrive.

For the word advent also means a beginning, an onset. So in the dark of November, I wait for the beginning of spring. I wait for a thawing of the fear and exclusivity that call people aliens in the land of their brothers and sisters. I wait for the day when Christ can come out of the shadows and feel the warmth of the sun on his dust-etched face.

In the meantime, it’s bone-cold in the office of Annunciation House. Olga wraps her baby more snugly in the fuzzy cotton-candy-colored blanket. She sets Mariana carefully in my arms for one last cuddle before bed. As I carry my bundle through the sala, a few of the guests ask jokingly if she’s my baby. I laugh with them, but then I think: yes. Yes, of course she is my baby. I did not give birth to tiny, perfect Mariana, but by God I will help give her to the light. For unto all of us this child is born, homeless and precious; unto us this little girl is given. May the government be upon her shoulders—and get off her back.

[We are currently raising funds to renovate our 100+-year old building so that it can continue to be a place of refuge for people like Olga and her child. In this season of giving, would you consider supporting our mission? Read more and/or make a donation here.]

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Stay of Removal for Emilio Gutierrez

Here is an update from Linda Rivas, Executive Director and Managing Attorney of Las Americas:

Yesterday at around 9:15am, ICE informed me that they planned to immediately deport my client, Mexican Journalist, Emilio Gutierrez and his son. I asked ICE to allow a Motion to Reopen that is before the Immigration Judge to be adjudicated before such a decision was made. ICE could not confirm whether or not they would accept the filing of a Stay of Removal from me on behalf of my client but they stated I was allowed try.

Las Americas immediately began to compile the Stay of Removal. Through the day phones calls with ICE led to inconsistent messaging. At one point they indicated that the Stay could be adjudicated immediately and Emilio and his son could be deported. I shared the need to call ICE via email to potentially influence them in allowing me to the file the Stay to a small group that has been helping us with Emilio led by Julie Schoo at the National Press Club.

ICE accepted the filing of our Stay and placed Emilio and his son on an ankle monitor. I immediately emailed the group letting them know the stay had been accepted. We updated people in an effort to not spread panic. It is my understanding that our latest updates may not have shared widely and this morning a mass email went out that alarmed people, people who support Emilio and have been following him closely.

Emilio is still at risk of deportation. There are remedies that exist for him in court and we are asking ICE to allow him to exhaust those remedies and to consider the imminent harm Emilio is in. Due to this harm we are not willing to go to media at this time.

Currently Las Americas represents Emilio before ICE. Eduardo Beckett, private attorney in El Paso, Texas represents Emilio before the Immigration Judge. We are doing everything we can to ensure Emilio and his son are able to safely remain in the United States.

We thank all those who are concerned for Emilio and his son. I do not believe calls to ICE are necessary at this time. Please stay tuned for official statements by Las Americas as ICE could render a negative a decision any moment.

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