james pierre houston haitians united
James Pierre, board chari of Houston Haitians United, stands in front of the NACC Receiving Center, which was housing Haitian asylum seekers in September. Photo by Leonardo March

Wilner Luders stood in the hot Texas sun wearing a dark suit, as he watched Haitian asylum seekers in Del Rio board a bus to a Houston shelter. Luders, an accountant, made the nearly six-hour drive from his Houston home, in part to offer financial support. But his mission was also deeply personal. 

“I’ve tried to trade shoes with these people that are challenging life, defying the odds,” said Luders, 56, who is also a trustee with the First Haitian Church of God in Houston. “The second thing is, what would I tell my grandchildren if one of them is asking, ‘Were you there in Texas at that time, did you do something?’”

In Del Rio, Luders lent his cell phone to asylum seekers, helping them contact relatives throughout the United States. After following their bus to a Houston shelter, Luders said he disbursed $3,000, through his capacity with the church, to cover transportation costs. 

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Sam is a reporter for The Haitian Times and a 2020 Report for America corps member. He has covered Haiti and its diaspora since 2018. His work has also appeared in USA Today, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and Haiti Liberte. Sam can be reached at sam@haitiantimes.com or on Twitter @sambojarski.