A true humanitiarian crisis has developed at our southern border. The number of unaccompanied children trying to enter the United States has more than doubled since October, 2011 with the majority of the increase coming from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Children from Mexico represent the largest number, but the gap is steadily narrowing between Mexico and the other three.
The United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) released an in-depth study of over 400 children representing the 4 countries who were either apprehended by US border patrol or detained at a port of entry. The study, Children on the Run, documents that well over half of these children qualify for asylum protection according to accepted international standards. UAC_UNHCR_Children on the Run_Full Report
As Christians, our response must flow from the Gospel. The Catholic Bishops of Texas have said that, “We must not lose sight of the fact that these are young, scared, and desperate mothers and children. They need and deserve our protection and support. Now is not the moment for inflammatory political rhetoric, but of compassionate and orderly resolution to the conditions of these women and children who are already in a difficult humanitarian situation” (http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/41198). Similarly, Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary Bishop of Seattle and Chair of the USCCB’s Committee on Migration stated:
“This is a very complicated problem, but its roots must be addressed, both by our government and governments in the region. These children are extremely vulnerable to human traffickers and unscrupulous smugglers and must be protected. Over the long term, the increasing violence from gangs and organized crime in their home countries must be addressed and controlled so they can be secure in their homes. This is an issue which should not become politicized or give cause for negative rhetoric. It is truly a humanitarian crisis which requires a comprehensive response and cooperation between the branches of the U.S. government. Young lives are at stake.”
Christ calls forth compassion from all believers. We acknowledge that the majority of these 40,000+ children have attempted to enter the United States without proper authorization; at the same time, we more deeply acknowledge that each of them is a member of our family, the Body of Christ, seeking the kind of life God wishes for us all.
Catholic Charities organizations throughout the country have offered their services. The reality, however, is that there’s is not much to do until the federal governement decides how to handle these children. The United States Bishops have asked President Obama to reconsider fast-tracking deportation measures because so many of the children should be classifed as refugees due to the violence they’ve fled.
For us, then, our best reponse is to keep ourselves accurately informed and to pray for a resolution that is in the best interest of those who are most vulnerable. As new initiatives and ideas are proposed, contact your elected officials and express your informed position.
Update…..the federal government has implemented a plan to house the children at various sites across the country. Already, demonstrators have mobilized to support both sides of the issue, and some cities have passed legislation banning the federal government from using their facilities.