Michelle MacFadyen welcomes newcomers with open arms.
A dedicated volunteer and advocate for immigrants in detention working with Louisiana Advocates for Immigrants in Detention (LA Aid), Michelle started her journey when she learned that hundreds of migrants are detained in Basile, right next to Eunice where she grew up.
“I inquired and realized there’s a detention center there [in Basile] that houses many ladies, hundreds of ladies that have been across the border and been brought to detention,” she says.
With eight detention centers, Louisiana is the largest detainer of immigrants besides Texas. LA Aid operates statewide, providing companionship, and assisting with accessing medical care, transportation, meals and overnight hosting.
“It’s the first time that they’ve actually seen somebody with a smile on their face and a hug to say [that] we are happy you are in our country and we wish you luck for the rest of your journey,” Michelle says.
The impact isn’t a one-way street. The experience has broadened Michelle’s horizons. She recalls one instance where a woman from China, who fled to the U.S. due to religious persecution, stayed with her.
“All she wanted to do was make dumplings like she used to do when she was younger,” Michelle says. “So she told me exactly what to go to the grocery store for. And an hour later there were over 50 dumplings to share with my children and my husband. And there are so many things that they bless us with that it’s just an amazing ministry organization to be involved in.”
A former NASA engineer, Michelle has witnessed firsthand that we all have much more in common than differences with people from other countries. For her, it’s important for everyone to open their minds and their hearts to the plight of immigrants.
“We are providing a place of hospitality and welcome to people who are in dire straits or have been terrorized, who’ve come across the border looking for help in terms of just a safe place to live so they don’t have to worry about maybe being killed, their relatives being killed,” Michelle says. “They have come from such stressful situations, and it’s our duty to welcome them and give them a safe refuge.”