In a small storefront beside the First Haitian Church of the Brethren in Brooklyn, N.Y., Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) East Coast immigration counselor Sara Mateo-Deo, of Elmont, N.Y., leans toward client Emmanuel Limonta, flipping through the thick sheaf of documents he has brought.
For more than a year, MCC has supported Mateo-Deo and Sylvia Shirk, pastor of Manhattan Mennonite Fellowship, to work each Thursday at this site under the supervision of a law graduate and an attorney from Lutheran Social Services.
“You listen to people’s experiences,” said Mateo-Deo. “Sometimes you cry with them, you laugh with them.”
Before Haiti’s devastating earthquake in January 2010, many Haitians lived and worked in New York and sent money to Haiti, often building homes there. After the earthquake, though, with homes destroyed and people living on the streets, many families began quickly searching for ways to bring children or relatives to New York.
There are successes, but both Mateo-Deo and Shirk have faced the task of telling someone they have no legal way to remain in the U.S. or to bring a relative from Haiti. “Some of it is so complicated, and it results in family tragedies,” Shirk said.
No matter the situation, Mateo-Deo and Shirk offer what assistance they can, ministering to clients in the process. “We are called to serve. We are called to bring peace and spread the name of Jesus around,” said Mateo-Deo. “When they see the love we have for them and truly caring for their situation, whether we can help them or not, I think they see that.”
Read the complete story at mcc.org/news.
Marla Pierson Lester is MCC’s publications managing editor and web content editor.
Deportations to Haiti
Deportations to Haiti were suspended after the 2010 earthquake, but resumed in January of this year. One deportee has already died of cholera-like symptoms. Not only do deportations jeopardize the lives of those returned to the country, they also divert resources from Haiti’s recovery effort.