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New program to help undocumented immigrants off to slow start

Posted at 6:08 PM, Jul 11, 2018

It's a community in crisis, and dozens of people in Northeast Ohio are stepping up to lend a helping hand. But as many immigrant families continue to face an uncertain future, we're learning those volunteers are not as busy as they first thought they'd be.

Suffering in silence - it's what some parishioners at Sacred Heart Church in Lorain say they're doing right now.

Many of them are scared their families could be separated at any second.

That fear is so crippling, they can't even ask for help.

Every hour of every day they're trying to live a normal life in the shadows.

News 5 caught up with a current DACA recipient whose family is living in fear.

"Can't really go and experience a lot of things," said the 19-year old, who didn’t want her name used.

Her mother and father immigrated from Mexico 16 years ago. Both are undocumented.

"If they're gone we'd have to like take care of the house, take care of the bills, everything," the teen said.

It's the reality facing other parishioners at Sacred Heart and churches across Northeast Ohio.

"There's a lot of things that can be done to minimize the damage to a family," said Ken Cromer, one of six people from Sacred Heart trained to help families prepare for detention and deportation.

"It's a process that I've found to be slower than I expected," he said.

Volunteers with the Cleveland Diocese's 'Parish Companion’ program are not very busy these days.

"We're not being overwhelmed by people saying 'help me, help me,'" said Father William Thaden.

As for why? Fr. Thaden has a theory: "There's a tendency to want to pull back into the shadows even more."

To keep that from happening, Sacred Heart is about to take a more aggressive approach.

"We have to try to reach out to them more," Fr. Thaden said.

The teen’s mother admits that up until now, she was too scared to come forward.

"We live with fear every day. One can't, can't come out into the light," the undocumented immigrant said.

She told News 5 that she has tried to remain optimistic about her family's future.

"I hold onto the hope that it's something we really wouldn't need, even though we know we do," the mother said.

Her teen daughter has a message for all those suffering in silence: "Pay attention to what's going on and not ignore it like it's going to pass by."

Fr. Thaden is now encouraging his parish companions to be more engaging and not wait for people in need to come forward.

"We have to really invite people and help them to realize why they need to do the preparations that this ministry helps them to do," he said.

Right now, more than 40 people are trained to assist local families facing deportation.