Jesus said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.” Mark 10:14
It is a nearly 3,000-mile journey from Southern Honduras to the southernmost tip of Texas, a region called the Rio Grande Valley, where most unaccompanied migrant children from Central America enter the United States. Over 50,000 children have already arrived in 2014. Most children begin their journey by bus, often accompanied by a coyote, or human trafficker, which costs a few thousand dollars. They stop at safe houses along the way that are usually crowded. An unaccompanied child is one who lacks immigration status, is under 18, and who is present without a parent or legal guardian. The average age is dropping: children under age 10 are now making the dangerous journey predominantly from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras and Mexico.
Why are they coming?
Honduras and El Salvador, where there are more gang members than police officers and extreme violence, cannot adequately protect children, who are left extremely vulnerable (93% of crimes perpetrated against youth go unpunished). Many children leave for the possibility of family reunification and/or in search of educational and economic opportunities. Mexico has no foster care system for asylum-seeking children and a lack of children’s shelters. The children are often left in detention centers with adults or they seek deportation to try again.
48% of children are affected by violence from drug cartels, gangs or the state.
21% of children survived abuse and violence in the home.
38% of children from Mexico are exploited in the criminal human trafficking industry.
Up to 72% of children may have more than compelling reasons to receive asylum.
What are they risking to come here?
The journey north to the border finds children in danger of drug traffickers, human traffickers, corrupt law enforcement, and gang activity. Girls are routinely raped on the journey and gang violence along the route is common. The children who are able to cross into the United States are being held in detention centers at the border and at other federal facilities, such as military bases. Immigration policy does not require the state to supply an attorney, often leaving children dealing with trauma to represent themselves in deportation hearings.
Pray for the children and their families.
Contribute financially to the archdiocesan through the Office for Immigrant Affairs. They will forward your donation to Catholic Charities in San Antonio. Please make checks payable to Office for Immigrant Affairs, 3525 South Lake Park Ave., Chicago IL 60653. Write on the envelope and check: “for unaccompanied children.”
To learn more, call Lisa Polega (English) 312-534-8104 or Yazmin Saldivar (Spanish) 312-534-8105.
For additional resources on unaccompanied children, visit catholicsandimmigrants.org
Sources: No Country for Lost Kids, PBS Newshour June 20, 2014; Office of Refugee Resettlement, Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Charities, Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc., VERA Institute of Justice, Bishop Mark Seitz testimony, USCCB.