IMMOKALEE, Fla. Volunteers at the Casa Maria Soup Kitchen usually feed lunch each to day to around 150 people, many of them immigrants.
Tuesday, barely more than 40 people showed up at the building on 211 South Ninth St.
President Donald Trump’s strict immigration policies have some Southwest Florida immigrants scared they’ll be deported. Many hesitate to gather in large groups for fear of getting deported.
“They are so afraid of being picked up by law enforcement, they’re going to go hungry rather than have a warm meal,” said Jean-Paul Boucher, director of Family Mission at Saint John the Evangelist Catholic Church in North Naples.
The issue is becoming a cause for concern among leaders at Guadalupe Social Services, a nonprofit organization that offers meals, groceries and other services to residents in need.
“It worries us as an agency because we want the families to be taken care of,” immigration counselor Maria Cardenas said.
Between 40 and 50 people used to visit the organization’s food pantry everyday to pick up groceries for the week. Now only half as many do.
Father John Ludden, pastor of Saint John the Evangelist Catholic Church, has preached to his congregation to change their attitudes toward undocumented immigrants. His sermons include a personal story.
“I had to stay here illegally over two years (because of a mistake on paperwork), paying taxes, social security… the process failed me,” he said.
Ludden’s goal is to make it work for others by changing how some of the food is distributed. Beginning next month, Guadalupe Social Services will be delivering bags of food from its pantry to hundreds of homes.
“It’s time for us as a church to say these people are important to God … they should be important to everyone of us that have found something of the American dream,” he said.