Organizations responding to the immigration crisis on the United States’ southern border initially faced their biggest challenge in the overwhelming numbers of refugees coming across. Now, their challenge is a federal administration bent on sending them back: “We are very disheartened by the President’s aggressive actions towards immigrants,” said Holy Cross Sr. Suzanne Brennan, who directs Holy Cross Ministries in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Hundreds of protesters took part in a rally and march in Washington Aug. 28 chanting: "Not one more! Not one more!" to urge President Barack Obama to stop the deportation of immigrant families, workers and children. Mercy Sr. Anne Curtis, joined by a group of women religious, stressed the sisters' long-term commitment in working with immigrant families and trying to secure a just immigration reform. "We're concerned about families that are separated and what happens to these women and children," she told CNS.
A makeshift detention center in a remote New Mexico town has been called "a deportation machine" by attorneys volunteering to provide services to refugee migrants from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala; due process is at risk as rights are glossed over and hearings are rushed. Sisters and other Catholics are concentrating on advocacy.
Inspired by Nicaraguan refugees attending the high school where Dominican Sister of Hope Debbie Blow served as campus minister, the group went to repair damage caused by Hurricane Mitch. Almost two decades later, Blow is now the co-founder and executive director of North Country Mission of Hope, a “humanitarian, spiritually based” organization providing education and community development in Nicaragua. She talked with GSR about the current wave of child migrants to the U.S.
More than 100 religious leaders and activists were arrested July 31 in a White House protest aimed at halting deportations and aiding immigrants living in the U.S. illegally. The direct action sponsored by Church World Service and Casa de Maryland, an immigration advocacy group, brought leaders from New England to Hawaii to the nation’s capital, including Sister of Mercy Eileen Campbell.
Sr. Kathleen Erickson first went to serve on the United States’ southern border with Mexico in 1991. She served there 18 years and recently, she’s been speaking out on the root causes of the immigration crisis. Most of the children are coming from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. Erickson was an international observer of the Honduran elections last November and spent five weeks in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, earlier this summer.
With six weeks of steady reporting about the influx of Central American children and families crossing the U.S. border and no quick solutions being presented for what will happen to them, many people are asking their churches and dioceses what they can do to help. In a July 10 panel discussion during the National Migration Conference in Washington, some of the possible ways volunteers, financial donations and other types of resources might be put to use were outlined by representatives of various Catholic organizations.
A Latin America expert for Catholic Relief Services, the head of the bishops' migration committee and the president of a Catholic college in Michigan were among those urging the government toward humanitarian responses to a surge of children and families crossing the U.S. border from Central America. Among their recommendations were: fully funding a requested federal appropriation for services to deal with the influx of people
Across the United States, Catholics have stepped in to help the unprecedented numbers of children without parents flooding the border, despite protests, threats, and government reluctance to give access to detained children. Immigration officials have detained nearly 60,000 children without their parents at the southern border since October, more than double the number picked up the year before. Naturally, Catholic sisters are among those offering humanitarian and spiritual assistance.
Three stats and a map - In the last few months, the number of unaccompanied child migrants coming to the U.S. from Central America has reached a crisis point. Since fiscal year 2011, the number of unaccompanied minors apprehended at the border has increased 142 percent, causing an uptick in the religious and humanitarian groups dealing with the issue.
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