Many children are coming to the United States, specifically Texas, seeking family members who previously immigrated to this country. This has been extensively reported in various media. Below is an initial overview of the situation, how the Catholic Diocese of Raleigh is responding, and what the faithful can do to support the teachings of our Catholic Faith.
Overview of the Current Situation
Unaccompanied children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras are migrating to the United States in record numbers. While not a new phenomenon, the number of children who are making this perilous journey has increased exponentially, upwards of 90,000 children are projected to arrive between October 2013 and September 20141. A delegation of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) traveled to Central America in November 2013 and reported that multiple interrelated factors are contributing to the increase in child migration. Some of these factors include: a lack of strong social institutions and civil society support, violence and family separation, lack of viable economic and educational opportunities, and environmental factors affecting crop production. The delegation also reported that “one overriding factor has played a decisive and forceful role in recent years: generalized violence at the state and local levels and a corresponding breakdown of the rule of law have threatened citizen security and created a culture of fear and hopelessness.”2
How Our Catholic Teaching Calls Us to Respond
The sanctity of the family and the need to protect the vulnerable are integral elements of our Catholic approach to service and pastoral care in the United States. There are three basic principles of Catholic Social Teaching on immigration:
People have the right to migrate to sustain their lives and the lives of their families.
A country has the right to regulate its borders and to control immigration.
A country must regulate its borders with justice and mercy.
A country’s regulation of borders and control of immigration must be governed by concern for all people and with mercy and justice. A nation may not simply decide that it wants to provide for its own people and no others. A sincere commitment to the needs of all must prevail. (Source).
Other helpful links from USCCB:
Family Reunification, Care of Children and Immigration Issues
Reunification and Care of Children: The USCCB’s department of Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) provides community-based services to support the reunification of unaccompanied children with family members in the U.S. Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Raleigh contracts with MRS to ensure children are housed with families of relatives who can care for them. Temporary mass housing facilities are provided for these children by the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement and are located in other states. (There are currently no foster care situations which are licensed within the State of North Carolina for these children.) Additionally, Catholic Charities is helping parents find unaccompanied children who have come to the U.S. to live in safety with their family.
Legal Immigration Issues: Catholic Charities and local partners are responding to the legitimate immigration claims of these children and their families through our network of Immigration Specialists. Read a description of the services through which Catholic Charities is meeting some needs of these children and families:
How You Can Help
- Pray: For our country; For those providing care for these unaccompanied children; For the countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador- that leaders there can create a safe and prosperous environment for their citizens, especially their children.
- If you choose, support the work of USCCB/MRS by donating to The National Catholic Fund for Migration and Refugee Services
- If you choose, support Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Raleigh with a designated donation to expand its ability to provide legal immigration services and care services for these children and their families
- If you choose, join the Justice for Immigrants Campaign and support Comprehensive Immigration Reform legislation.
- Contact Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Raleigh regarding opportunities to help at the local level.
1 According to recent estimates from the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services.
2 The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). “Mission to Central America: The Flight of Unaccompanied Children to the United States,” (Washington, DC: USCCB, 2013), 2.