A pastor is ready to open the doors of his Bible institute in Texas to Ukrainian refugees currently sitting at the border between Mexico and the United States.
The Rev. Dr. Joe Fauss of Lindale directs a ministry and theological seminary on 189-acres, Calvary Commission International (CCI). The property includes houses, classrooms, lakes, a dining hall, and a 200-seat auditorium, all set in the peaceful Piney Woods of East Texas.
When Fauss considered the potential crush of Ukrainian migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border and their mental and spiritual condition, he became circumspect.
“I’ve been to Romania many times,” Fauss told The Epoch Times on April 5, “and speak quite a bit of the language. From what I’ve heard and seen from our contacts there, Ukrainian refugees will certainly be a challenge to us here, but we’ll take as many as the Lord brings us.”
Thousands of Ukrainians and Russians had already gathered along the border between Mexico and the United States well before President Joe Biden made his declaration in March that America would welcome 100,000 refugees from the devastation caused by Russia’s invasion.
Biden made his remarks during his trip to Europe to meet with NATO leaders concerning the Ukraine crisis.
The goodwill gesture by the president was not accompanied by a plan to clear out the backlog of Ukrainians and Russians who had been stopped at the border since 2020.
The standard process for U.S. immigration includes vetting applicants, appointments, recommendations, and connections, if any, with people already established in the United States.
Well before the war between Russia and Ukraine, citizens from both countries were at the southern U.S. border in the tens of thousands.
In 2020, more than 30,000 hopeful migrants arrived there and that number increased to more than 75,000 Russians according to estimates from Mexico.
Mexico does not require a visa for citizens of Ukraine or Russia who may legally remain there for up to six months.
The United States Customs and Border Protection said more than 13,000 immigration meetings in 2021 came from Russians alone. From October 2021 to February 2022, that number was up to 13,808.
At the same time in 2021, immigration meetings with Ukrainians numbered 9,378 and from October 2021 to February 2022, there have been another 5,534.
In Texas, from October 2021 to February 2022, U.S. Immigration officials said 956 Ukrainians and 2,365 Russians arrived at the border.
There has also been no word from the administration of more resources devoted to the Ukrainian immigration process despite the pledge from White House officials that “the full range of legal pathways” would be opened to them.
Images from various news outlets show Russians and Ukrainians camping in the streets along the border.
Fauss thinks more Ukrainian refugees will be coming through Texas soon and he will see many of them as they arrive. CCI founded a church in the Texas city of Hidalgo located right at the Rio Grande border with Mexico.
He also operates a four-story orphanage in Reynosa on the Mexican side of the border.
His staff in Mexico report growing encounters with Ukrainians already, when most of the millions of refugees are still in Europe. The two facilities he runs are not far apart, Fauss said.
“If you stand outside our church in Hidalgo, you can see the roof of the orphanage in Mexico,” he said.
“We have been in Hidalgo and Reynosa for years and we’ve seen a lot of change the past two years—but now we are seeing something new.
“When they come [Ukrainians] we’ll be ready for them, and to tell the truth, I’m looking forward to helping them as much as we can here [at the CCI headquarters].”
But Fauss also said rapid changes are occurring at the border, even while he spoke to The Epoch Times. The imminent repeal of some laws prohibiting entrance to the United States due to COVID-19 will strain an already overloaded system, even without the extra influx of Ukrainians.
“I’m going down to Hidalgo in two weeks,” he said, “to visit two prisons we always go to, the Segovia and Lopez units in Edinburg. Segovia is now totally full of migrants. They took the inmates out and sent them to other places. We were also told that by the time we get to the Lopez unit, they may have only 300 prisoners, the rest will be migrants.”
The Segovia unit is a pre-release facility located in Edinburg, Texas, about 37 miles north of Hidalgo. The facility has a capacity of 1,224 according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
Programs run there already included chaplaincy services, a faith-based dormitory, a Life Decisions Program, and Reentry Planning, which is why Fauss can hold services there.
The Lopez unit is a state-operated jail with a capacity of 1,100 inmates and is adjacent to the Segovia unit.
The Romanian Connection
Volunteers working with refugees in Romania agree about the challenges.
American Jim Leach and his wife, Becky, are leaders of a team of 20 unpaid full-time volunteers working with orphans in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, a city of about 700,000.
When war broke out they opened their doors to refugees. Leach said that the Ukrainians coming to them were “very sad and withdrawn.”
“They are broken down, mentally, physically, and spiritually,” Leach told The Epoch Times on March 10.
“I told our staff, ‘We’re not here just to feed them and give them a bed. We need to sit down and listen to them; befriend them; laugh and cry and pray with them.’”
Fauss said that because of CCI’s international reach, which includes orphanage and church work in Romania, Belize, Peru, and an unnamed communist country, he is familiar with the work in Cluj-Napoca,
“Our contacts in Romania—the pastors and orphanage workers there—are doing what they can, but there are thousands upon thousands of them [refugees] coming across the border.
“That’s why I’d like to make ministry to Ukrainians a priority for us right now,” Fauss said.
“There are a lot of strong Christians in Ukraine and we want to help them here any way we can. That’s the first step. Then we’ll see where God takes us.”