LAREDO - Laredo religious groups say they must do more to prevent incidents such as the San Antonio hot trailer smuggling tragedy that left 10 people dead.
About 150 miles south of San Antonio, in Laredo, many undocumented immigrants are kept in stash houses by human traffickers waiting to be smuggled passed the Border Patrol checkpoint.
Several Laredo-based churches want to disrupt that network, by reaching out to immigrants through faith and education.
"We've minimized what it has taken for people to really leave their country," said Mercy Ministries director of outreach, Sister Rosemary Welsh.
For Welsh, the idea of blaming undocumented immigrants for their own perils, means ignoring why they risked it all to cross the border in the first place.
"The whole thing, especially in this heat, you're taking a tremendous risk. But how can we tell them not to do it when going back home can be a certain death?” asked Welsh.
The 73-year-old immigrant advocate wants to end the cycle of abuse undocumented people suffer when placing their trust in human traffickers and offer a safe haven for those in need.
"Everybody is welcome. We don't ask them where they're from but where they live," she said.
The Mercy Ministries of Laredo is one of the places she says is open for victims of human trafficking as long as they live in Webb county.
She believes that religious organizations, including hers, need to double up efforts to reach out to people and offer help. That, she said,s, could keep them from having to make life or death decisions.
"Every church... Muslims, we have a mosque here in town, Jewish synagogues, catholic churches, born again Christians, Methodists, we are here to help you if you think you're being trafficked.”
Sister Welsh said church organizations from all religions are planning a family violence and abuse conference in October that she hopes will also address human trafficking issues that continue to plague border towns like Laredo.
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