Catholic Charities: The Immigrant Children Crisis

One of the most pressing questions we as Christians face is how we respond to the crisis surrounding immigrant children from Central America flowing by the thousands across our border.  Rather than debate the problems associated with their migration, let’s consider what Pope Francis has to say: *“This humanitarian emergency requires, as a first urgent measure, these children be welcomed and protected. These measures, however, will not be sufficient, unless they are accompanied by policies that inform people about the dangers of such a journey and, above all, that promote development in their countries of origin.”

In more than half the cases documented, the children are eligible for asylum because of abuse or threats against their lives and those of family members. They are fleeing drug cartels and gang violence out of very real fear and for their lives.

** “More than three-quarters of the children are from mostly poor and violent towns in three countries: El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Children from Mexico, once the largest group, now make up less than a quarter of the total. Since January of this year, 4,280 unaccompanied minors have crossed the border into Texas and 1,071 into Louisiana. In all of these countries, the violence, crime and poverty rates are very high. In fact, Honduras has the ugly distinction of having the highest murder rate in the hemisphere.

***In a recent National Public Radio story, reporter Eileen Pace went to San Antonio and interviewed workers and several of the children. During that interview, Jennifer Podkul responded with this horrific account: “I spoke to a girl who said she opened her front door one day and there were pieces of a body, you know, thrown in a plastic bag on her doorstep as a warning from the gangs that they have to comply with all of the, you know, requirements that the gangs are asking.” What the gangs are asking is that children come with them to sell and deliver drugs. They are recruited from their schools and homes without regard to age or gender.  One teacher tells of cartel members coming into her classroom demanding children. When she responded that they could not take the children, a gun was held to her head as they removed them from the class.

There are no easy solutions, but thankfully there are many who care and are working hard to help these desperate children, including people at Catholic Charities USA and many parishes throughout the US.  Let us continue to learn all we can about this crisis and to pray for the children, their families and all who work to make them welcome and safe.

*From The Huffington Post – 7/15/2014 online edition
**http://www.nytimes.com/interactive
***NPR.org – Texas Air Base Houses Minors Crossing Solo Into U.S.

by Theresa Mormino, Catholic Charities of North Louisiana

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