Archives: Social Action - Asylum Family Early Reports




 January 29th Service 2017

 Rev. Barb de Souza and Roberta Kuhn

"Welcoming the Stranger!"

Resources  provided by Martha TerMaat: 

Take Action for Syrian Refugees - Amnesty International USA



We hope all of those who attended the forum last Sunday came away with a better understanding of how immigration law works in the US.  Kim Hunter did a great job explaining the differences between immigrants, non-immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. If you want to read more about how lawyers work to better the lives of those seeking asylum in our country, go to to learn exactly what is happening in our southern states.
Last week, Heidy celebrated her 27th birthday with some of her new River Falls friends. She opened gifts, ate cupcakes, and told stories of her homeland. We all enjoyed seeing pictures of the children as babies and other family members saved on the cell phone that she brought from Guatemala. Don't worry, they are also on a CD. Next up...Alison's 10th birthday party at the bowling alley!
Alison's birthday had arrived and her party was planned for the same day...Friday, November 18th, right after school.
A couple of weeks earlier, she had agreed to a bowling party for her birthday even though she'd only seen bowling in movies. After whittleing her guest list from ten to four classmates (she and her siblings made eight), the planning began. Space was reserved at St. Croix Lanes, classmates invited, a bouquet of cupcakes was ordered, the bus garage and school notified that the Santos kids would be picked up, and arrangements for driving everyone was done.
When the classmates arrived at the bowling alley, shoe sizes were taken. Brother Charlie had to wear shoes three sizes too big, but who of us wanted to spend all evening keeping him off the lanes? Charlie even seemed to enjoy his "clown shoes". The two boys in Alison's class gladly tutored the newbies on the nuances of bowling and then immediately decided...boys against girls! Very funny!
Ten or twelve adults showed up to watch the antics. We all ate pizza and cupcakes, raved over the gifts, took pictures, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. And Alison had the time of her life! Feliz cumpleanos, Alison!
Correction: The website concerning lawyers who help at our borders is

It has recently become a harrowing time for Heidy's rescuers at the Nazareth Shelter for migrant women and children in Nogales, Sorona Mexico, and the CAMDEP facility, located near the border crossing for deportees who are dropped off at the border with just the clothes on their back.

​There has been an uptick in crimes against migrants recently, and the church workers act the shelters have been encouraging the migrants to report the crimes to the police.  Since then, the shelters have been broken into and vandalized, and the the priest has received threatening calls.  This has never happened before at these shelters or the first aid station.

What could be the reason for this?  Drug cartels see shelters as an impediment to their business.  The shelters protect migrants who would otherwise be forced into smuggling drugs or extorted for money to cross into the US. More and more migrants are reporting this, the police have been informed and the shelters are now facing retribution.

We need to keep the Kino Border Initiative, their shelters, volunteers and guests in our prayers.


This past week, Heidy received her "final approval for asylum" document...probably the most important piece of paper she will need as she moves forward toward citizenship.  On Thursday, December 15, we will take her to US Citizenship and Immigration in Bloomington, MN for her appointment to begin the paperwork for a social security card, an employment authorization document, and other benefits our country offers to asylums and refugees.  In one year, she can apply to be a permanent resident and four years after that...citizenship!

Her children automatically receive the same documentation. 

​We were told by those who have been there...plan to spend the entire day!  It will be worth it, and mucho gracias to all who have been praying for our precious family.  This would not have happened without your support!

There are far too many people to thank for their generosity in one weekly announcement, but we are going to try hard to acknowledge each and every one of them in 2017! 

Asylum Family - December 18th Update

For a couple of weeks, Barb has been talking about taking the family to see Santa. She hadn't had the "Santa" experience in decades since Santa does not come to the Favelas, the shantytowns of Brazil. Therefore, she was very excited about sharing this experience with Heidy and the children.

Barb texts Heidy, no answer. Barb calls Heidy, no answer! She had learned that Santa would be at Family Fresh and needed to get them there, but first she had to pick up Gus' s prescription at Freeman Drug. When she came out the door, who should she spot but Heidy and the kids walking down the street to buy milk and bread.

Barb wasted no time, hustled them to Family Fresh, stood in line to see Santa, and got some great photos of some happy kids. Oh, and Barb got her Santa fix!

PS In Guatemala, the children believe that Baby Jesus puts the presents under the tree! Sweet!

Asylum family:  January 1, 2017 Update

Christmas is the perfect time for heartfelt gratitude. We are grateful that our savior was born in order that we may have everlasting life, blessed to be living in a country not ravaged by yet another civil war, relieved that the hate mongering campaigns have ended, grateful that our bellies are full and medical care is but a phone call away, and thankful for the chance to save five lives in 2016.

No one is more grateful than one little Guatemalan family as they celebrated their first Christmas in the US surrounded by the love of the generous people in their new community, They do not have enough words to thank the anonymous family who chose to buy them gifts through the Family Sharing program and no way to express their gratitude to the many in this community who have helped them financially as well as those who have simply offered them their friendship. A special gracias to a gifted teacher, Stephanie Linehan, who sent a video of the entire class wishing one sick second grade girl a very Merry Christmas!
Asylum Family: January 2 Update
Last year at this time, we were preparing for the arrival of our Guatemalan family. We had skyped with them, and they wanted to come immediately...planning on the middle of January.  We had nothing ready and asked Heidy to postpone her walk across the Port of Entry until February 1. I'm sure she was disappointed, but we had a lot of work to do. An apartment was rented to us at a reduced rate and once the word was out, an unbelievable number of generous people in this community donated everything imaginable to turn an empty apartment into a home. The members of the newly organized Ecumenical Asylum Committee had requested donations from their churches, and the Wisconsin UCC gifted the first thousand dollars to turn our dream into a reality.
Asylum Family:  January 15th Update
January 1st was Josue's 6th birthday, and we learned that he had never had a birthday party in his life! Of course, we had to fix that; Barb and Annette decided to take the reins. He really wanted a party with his new school friends, so Barb got ahold of his teacher to get names and addresses. The decision was made to have the party at the gymnastics' club, but there wasn't an opening until the 28th. Lucky for Josue, good friends Linda and Karen, along with our own Dee Nelson had the family over on his actual birthday!  
That evening Bobbie dropped by to remind Heidy that Josue would be expected to have birthday treats for school on Monday. Did she need to pick some up? No, she said, she'd take care of it. Was she going to walk all the way to the store on a cold, dark Sunday evening for a few treats? No problem for Heidy...she made 25 cupcakes with chocolate frosting from scratch. She never fails to amaze.
A special shout out to Ruth Riley for offering a ride to one cold family trudging their way through the snow to Shopko, waiting for them, then taking them home afterwards! Gracias Amiga!!

Asylum Family:  January 22 Update

How does the average immigrant do it? How would Heidy and her children have gotten to their immunization appointments in Ellsworth, to the grocery store and school appointments, Homeland Security at Fort Snelling, the lawyer's office in St. Paul, Immigration and Citizenship in Bloomington numerous times. As Aracely, Bobbie, and Heidy drove home from Bloomington last week, this was the topic of conversation. The Immigration office was filled with immigrants from all over the world, and they wondered how all of those people made it there. The appointments and paperwork would be overwhelming to a newcomer as well. Heidy was able to take the phone call and make the appointment for that day because she has a year of English under her belt. What do other immigrants do without help with all of this? It would be overwhelming.

Pastor Dave, Barb, and Bobbie give thanks for those of you who have joined us in our driving pool. Heidy could not have done this without Annette Peterson, Carol Merriman, Aracely Olguin, Carmen Covarrubias, Tony Jilek, Molly Miller, Ellie Richards, Karen Ryan, Linda Alvarez and many more! No podemos hacer lo suficiente!

Asylum Family:  January 29 Update

HEAR YE, HEAR YE...Barbara Mosley de Souza's long awaited piece of amazing non-fiction has been published and is now available on Amazon.

When Sleeping Women Awake, Mountains Will Move is an anthology of women's stories. Each chapter concerns one of the amazing women Barb met during the forty years she worked as a social worker, nurse educator, and family clinic founder in the shanty towns of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. 

 The same week the book was released, Barb attended the Women's March in St. Paul. A year ago, she welcomed a family from Guatemala after helping to establish an Ecumenical Committee to provide their support. Needless to say, she is a force to be reckoned with, and we couldn't be prouder!

(Just wanted to share that the service was a wonderful warm and uplifting event for all of us in the congregation!  Thank you to Heidy and her wonderful family!  Thank you to Rev. Barb and Bobbie and to Aracely and everyone who made the welcome for this lovely family possible. - Vicki, representing the congregation.) 

Asylum Family News: February 5 Update

Saturday, Jan.28: Josue's first birthday party ever! Nine or ten kids plus parents, grandparents, and committee members descended on the River Falls Gymnastics Club The kids tumbled with a real coach; pizza, Spiderman cake, and a huge pile of presents followed. Now six, Josue had the time of his life; his giant Spiderman balloon, however, will spend the rest of its life trapped on the very high ceiling of the club!
Sunday, Jan. 29: One of the seven churches supporting the family, the Unitarian Universalist Society Church, invited Barb and Bobbie to speak. Barb assisted with planning the service, and Bobbie joined her for the sermon and final prayer. Aracely introduced the family, and the children went off with the others to make valentines. The morning ended with a wonderful tamale lunch. Thank you, members of UU, for your heartfelt welcome. A special shout out to Sue Beckham and Mary Emberger for their help with the service, to Vicki Aarsheim for her work on the website, and to Jens Gunelson for volunteering his photography skills and finishing the photos for the family's official I.D.'s.

Asylum Family News: February 12 Update

February 3, 2017...the first anniversary of the arrival of the Santos family! We had to celebrate! Ara'a husband babysat Charlie and off we went to Mariachi Loco to party for almost three hours! This proved to be reminiscent of our wait at the IHOP (Pastor Dave's idea) a short year ago while Heidy's plane turned around and went back to Pheonix because of mechanical problems. How far we have come... the family has asylum, and they are waiting for their (work permits) picture I.D.'s so they can get their social security cards. Gracias to so many of you in the River Falls community. You know who you are, and we couldn't have done this without you.

A special shout out to Pastor Dave for your recognition of Barb and Bobbie during the annual meeting. We have a feeling Chris and Stacy were in on this, too. Needless to say, we were overwhelmed by the reaction from the congregation and were not sure what to do. Stay seated, stand up, clap, cry or smile?  What a great quandary to consider on such a wonderfully surprising day! Bless you all!

Asylum family news:  February 19 Update

On Friday, February 10th, we heard that a strange vehicle was seen traveling down Main Street, River Falls. 

After a little research, it was identified as a ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) vehicle...a large, black tank with "Police" in white written on the front hood. Bobbie called Ara, our interpreter, to tell her. She immediately called Heidy to tell her not to go out of the house without documents. Bobbie made copies of the most recent asylum documents from those in her safe and took them to Heidy and reinforced what Ara had told her. 

People might say that we are being over cautious. The truth is that if she were picked up without documents, she would be whisked away, and we would not be able to find her in the system until they had her registered on the Homeland Security website. Eventually, we would be able to prove her asylum status and get her released. This would be a nightmare. Therefore, we need to keep praying for those in limbo, in the process of documentation, but living in the shadows of what they consider their new home. 

Asylum Family Update:  February 26 Update
Welcome to Wisconsin during the flu season!  There is not much excitement going on in Heidy's household this week unless you count the colds, flu, cavities, and toothaches.  We had to cancel the parent-teacher conferences because we didn't expect that anyone would want to babysit a sick child and Heidy hadn't slept! 
Barb, our committee's on-call nurse, was busy with calling our wonderful volunteer doctor for advice, taking temperatures, running to the pharmacy, and setting appointments with the dentist.
Hopefully, spring is just around the corner! 
Asylum Family Update:  March 5 Update
There is a movement afoot!  As a consequence of the Women's March, women are organizing all over the country to ensure that they are heard concerning the issues that affect all women such as equal pay for equal work, access to affordable health care, etc.  Many women from River Falls attended marches  and told their stories to a group of 100 or more people who met at the Library a few weeks ago. During this gathering, women and men could join a group of concerned citizens to discuss the topics they were interested in. Some of thewomen on our Ecumenical Asylum Committee including Barb, Bobbie, Aracely, and Pastor Amy joined the immigration working group. We have met a couple of times and have set up a workshop on the changes in immigration law and the plight of immigrants and refugees and what the average citizen can do about it. The workshop will led by Immigration Attorney Kim Hunter and will be held at the University from 2 to 4 PM on April 29th. This workshop is open to all interested citizens. The exact space on campus is yet to be determined, 
but we will make sure to let everyone know where the event will be. 
Asylum Family Update:  March 12 Update
First of all, Heidy and the children are Catholic; yet seven River Falls churches welcomed them with open arms. They attended vacation bible schools in at least three of them, and the committee members helped Heidy serve tamale dinners at another three with the proceeds going to support the family. Other churches have had fundraisers for them or have generously donated every single month. How in the world will Heidy pick a home church? Or, does she 
need to? Yes, she is a baptized Catholic as are the children. The girls are preparing for First Communion. Committee members drive them to Hammond to attend a Spanish Mass at 2 PM every second Sunday of the month where she has made friends with other Hispanic families. The children like Wednesday school at the Assembly of God, but a Spanish speaking Jehovah Witness visits Heidy regularly. They have enjoyed activities at all of the churches involved in their support.  We will have to leave the decision up to her. It will be difficult since she feels such gratitude to all of the generousecumenical members of the River Falls community. Muchisimas gracias a todos!

Asylum Family Update: March 19 Update

There is a movement afoot!  As a consequence of the Women's March, women are organizing all over the country to ensure that they
are heard concerning the issues that affect all women such as equal pay for equal work, access to affordable health care, etc.  Many women 
from River Falls attended marches and told their stories to a group of 100 or more people who met at the Library a few weeks ago. 
During this gathering, women and men could join a group of concerned citizens to discuss the topics they were interested in. Some of the
women on our Ecumenical Asylum Committee including Barb, Bobbie, Aracely, and Pastor Amy joined the immigration working group.
We have met a couple of times and have set up a workshop on the changes in immigration law and the plight of immigrants and
refugees and what the average citizen can do about it. The workshop will led by Immigration Attorney Kim Hunter and will be held at the
University from 2 to 4 PM on April 29th. This workshop is open to all interested citizens. The exact space on campus is yet to be determined, 
but we will make sure to let everyone know where the event will be. 

Asylum Family Update for April 2nd, 2017

The kids learn that Bobbie knows everyone!! 

At 7:45 AM one day last week, Bobbie gets a call from Alison. She needs a dollar for the field trip. Bobbie reminds her of her stash of coins. No, she wants a dollar bill. Bobbie tells her that she has to use her own money. End of story.

Later that day, Bobbie runs into Alison’s teacher at Walgreens. She tells her that Alison gave her 60 cents for the trip, and another student made up the difference. The teacher thought nothing of it because there are several children in her classroom who need financial help for extras, and the school takes care of it.

After hearing the story, Heidy tells her daughter that if she has the money for something, she must pay the full amount. Alison claimed that she just counted wrong. Heidy knew better. The next day Alison leaves for school with her precious 40 cents while keeping a lookout for Bobbie who must know every teacher in town or have eyes in the back of her head! Lesson learned!

Asylum Family Update:  April 9 Update
Josue and the dentist!  Josue had had a check up previously, so he saw no problem with going to the dentist again. The problem was...he needed a tooth pulled this time. Ara went in to sooth him while Barb sat with Paola after her checkup. Barb heard all about her school friends (in perfect English) and listened to her read from the waiting room materials while trying to ignore the groans and cries coming from the examination room. Soon Josue reappeared...bloody gauze filling his mouth. 
Barb assumed the kids wanted to go home, but they couldn't wait to get back to school and reminded Barb that they'd had no lunch. Off to McDonalds they went...Josue insisting on a hamburger, which he couldn't eat, and then attempted an ice cream cone with his already "frozen mouth". Needless to say, his shirt eventually looked like it had seen better days.
Later that day, Bobbie stopped by the house and asked Josue how he was doing. "I'm never eating candy again", he declared.  That's what they all say!

Feel free to call Barb de Souza (336-880-3196), Bobbie Kuhn (715-441-2517) or Pastor Dave Ostendorf (715-441-6559) with any questions, concerns, or suggestions for the committee.

Asylum Family Update:  April 23 Update - Another Talk by Kim Hunter - here are details. 
Agenda for the April 29th workshop...Open to the public.
Topic: Issues facing immigrants and refugees from the legal perspective. 
Q & A session to follow.
Location: UWRF, University Center, Room: Trimbelle River 231
Time: 2- 4 pm on Saturday, April 29th, 2017
Presented by Attorney Kim Hunter from the Kim Hunter Law Firm, St. Paul, MN  (612 810 5055).
Questions about the workshop? Contact the Social Action Immigrant & Refugee Committee at
Registration is not required, but due to limited space, preferred. RSVP with an email to by April 25, 2017.

Asylum Family News: April 30 Update

Alison and Paola participated in St. Bridget's First Communion service on Saturday, April 22nd. As is common in Guatemala also, the girls wore really fancy white dresses, one of them given to Heidy by a new friend, and as well as tights and fancy shoes. Barb gave them lovely cross necklaces to wear, and their hair was done in long, smooth curls and held back with pretty white cloth flowers. We had cake at the house afterwards and all of us enjoyed the warm weather.
Bobbie asked the girls if they wanted to go to vacation bible school at St. B's since it was time to sign up. Alison, remembering her first summer here and all the friends she'd made, yelled, "Yes...all of them." St. B's will have to share the girls for one more summer anyway.

Asylum Family News: May 1 Update

This past February, the local police told us that it wasn't ICE vehicles we'd seen around town, and we should rest easy. Last week Friday, two local men were picked up by ICE outside their home at 5 AM. Even though they were getting ready to move because increased fear, their families were shocked. The next Monday, Bobbie, Barb, Heidy, and the kids attended a meeting for parents and the 60 some children in the school district who need English Language instruction. The good news is that another full time EL teacher will be hired in the fall. The bad news is something that Bobbie heard from a local teacher.  She has students who are afraid to leave their homes; their parents are riding to work with friends because they fear being picked up by ICE while driving their own cars. They may be undocumented, but they also are not felons. They have been paying taxes and taking jobs that our citizens do not want...roofing our houses, milking cows, cooking at our favorite restaurants, caring for our elderly and the disabled...all low paying jobs, The question is...who will replace them when they're gone?

Asylum Family Update: May end update.

Families that include school age children can barely keep track of things this time of year.

So many permission slips to sign, choir and band concerts to go to, field trips to chaperone, and summer activities to choose and register for.

It’s busy, to say the least. In the Santos household, the end of the school year is even more difficult. Heidy is not used to signing a permission slip for every outing or paying attention to the days that the kids need cold lunches, water bottles, and money for the trips... we are not in Guatemala anymore. She is also not used to deciding which activities will be done during the summer…another totally foreign concept. 

So Bobbie is keeping on top of things after hearing from teachers about schedules and permission slips.  Ara is in charge of translating the Park and Rec catalog so some decisions can be made. Barb got the kids signed up for vacation bible school and drove Heidy to Josue’s concert. Bobbie will be taking her to watch Paola’s play even though Paola informed us not to bother… she only got one line!

On top of all of this, all of Josue’s pants are too small. It really does take a village.

Asylum Family Report: June Update

It’s been almost a year and a half since the Santos family took  their first plane ride to Wisconsin. There were so many firsts for them in 2016…new country, new language, new friends …and so much more.

2017 started out with another mild winter and all was well until Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers came to town. Luckily, Heidy had her federal ID/work permit when they stopped at her door. Her neighbors were not so lucky and were arrested as she watched. On top of that, she and her children had just lost their interpreters and good friends when Ara followed her deported husband to Mexico.  

What will Heidy do without them, we asked. The answer is…just as she has always done…survive.  She and the children are having a wonderful summer. The kids have summer school, swimming lessons, and lots of neighborhood kids to play with. Heidy has made friends her own age who have taught her how to shop garage sales, who have traded babysitting kids, who have offered her jobs, and who have found other Guatemalans for her to connect with.  Yes, she has lost some good friends, but she has made some wonderful friends on her own who have been holding her up during a difficult time.

The Ecumenical Asylum Committee offers its gratitude to the River Falls community and the school district who welcomed them unconditionally and with open arms, and to the congregations who have so generously supported them.