DUMAS, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Asylum seekers have been a topic of discussion involving immigration for years and years. After a recent study done by a professor at the University of California-San Diego, 56 families listed Dumas as their destination. That’s more than Denver, Phoenix or Seattle.
“They’re coming and asking for asylum because it’s safer for them to take that journey than to stay in their home and take the chances of dying or losing a family member,” said Monica Loya, Cactus Nazarene Ministry Center Immigrant Services Coordinator.
One asylum seeker who is currently working toward her citizenship, and wished to remain anonymous, spoke to us through a translator about why she and her family chose the panhandle.
“In her home country she doesn’t have any land or money, there’s no work available for them to obtain these things. She does not have an education. She can not read or write and she would like for her children to have an education,” said the asylum seeker.
She also spoke about the lengths it’s taken for her and her family to make it there.
“They had to pay the equivalent of what it is 5,000 dollars here per person to make the journey. So they had to borrow money over there. She has to pay that back and after that, she wants to buy a piece of land and build a house for her children,” said the asylum seeker.
The process for asylum seekers to become a legal United States citizen can take up to four years or longer, which begins with them going to a port of entry.
“They do background checks, they run their fingerprints, take their pictures and then they have to go through a process. That’s just the beginning process. What they’re saying is, is that I want to make the United States my home legally,” said Loya.
From there, that is where Loya and her team at the Cactus Nazarene Ministry Center come into the picture, for a little less than three years now helping asylum seekers with everything from ESL classes and computer access to help with the U.S. citizenship test.
“If we can help them with that next step, we do. If we can not, we refer them to someone who can,” said Loya.
Loya told us that watching the more than 100 people they’ve helped achieve U.S. citizenship is a special moment for her and the asylum seeker.
“She came here for the work. She did not come here to steal or rob. God said you need to work for what you eat. I’m here to work because this is where the jobs were at,” said the asylum seeker.
“We want everybody to do the legal process because to us that is very important because we want to start with you but we also want to be there when you become a citizen and you’re waving your American flag,” said Loya.
DIGITAL EXCLUSIVE: Dumas ISD Migrant Recruiter Elda Cano on helping out the children of those seeking asylum: