Children at the Borders. Much is being written about the children and young families crossing the southern border of the United States and, unfortunately, much of the information is contradictory, thus, it is sometimes difficult to discern what is accurate. Nonetheless, it is critical that we search for the truth and speak the truth to government officials as well as our friends and neighbors.
Some Catholic bishops have been directly involved in visiting the children and in seeing what is actually going on. Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, Texas, has written an excellent reflection from his direct experience and the services offered by his diocese. http://bishopflores.blogspot.com/2014/07/southern-baptists-and-catholics.html Also read the reflection of Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore. http://bishopflores.blogspot.com/2014/07/southern-baptists-and-catholics.html
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Migration and Refugee Services makes available complete and excellent documentation. http://www.usccb.org/about/migration-policy/unaccompanied-migrant-children-resource-kit.cfm
Immigration Update Gatherings. During the week of July 14, Kat Doyle, Director of Justice and Peace Ministries and Frank Mulcahy, Executive Director of the Georgia Catholic Conference, spoke at three parishes about the most recent information available related to the plight of children coming to the United States without parents or guardians. The issues evolve daily and we bring up to date and accurate information. If other parishes would like to sponsor an update for immigration committees in their area, please contact Kat Doyle at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Advocacy – What to do? Congress has taken a five week recess without taking any definitive action to address the humanitarian crisis. Members will be in their districts for part of their recess time and it is an opportune time to contact them through email or personal visits to advocate for principles based on the reflection of our bishops. In particular, we ask the following:
- Preserve the protections of the bipartisan Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act passed in 2008.
- Support supplemental funding for the care and protection of vulnerable unaccompanied children while restoring funding for refugee resettlement. (Refugee resettlement funding directly affects the services that Catholic Charities Atlanta can provide.)
- Funding should include funding for judges and lawyers who can fairly adjudicate the asylum claims of children as required by law.
- Provide support to address the root causes of poverty and violence in Central American countries. (USCCB Migration and Refugee Services, Catholic Relief Services, Jesuit Refugee Services and other Catholic agencies have long been aware of the problems in Central America and the factors that push migration from those countries. They have, thus, been using what resources they have to address these overwhelming problems but private charities cannot fully solve government problems.)
The most convenient way to contact legislators is through the Catholic bishops’ Justice for Immigrants website. http://justiceforimmigrants.org/index.shtml.
Note: House of Representatives legislation passed on Friday, August 1, in being analyzed by USCCB staff but, on first reading, seems contrary to the many of the principles enunciated by Catholic bishops.
What else can I do? USCCB Migration and Refugee Services has short summary that includes recommended actions. As children and refugee families move into Georgia, St. Vincent de Paul conferences and parish charities will have increased needs. Catholic Charities Atlanta should also be considered along with the national charities identified by the USCCB summary. The summary also makes reference to the possibility of local families becoming sponsors of migrant families or becoming qualified foster families for children without relatives in the United States.
Prayer. Though prepared in 2013, Pope Francis’ universal prayer intention for August is: “That refugees, forced by violence to abandon their homes, may find a generous welcome and the protection of their rights.”
I can provide additional information on request.