An urgent humanitarian crisis is unfolding in Arizona and Texas, as a sudden and massive influx of unaccompanied children crossing the US Border in the Rio Grande Valley has taken the U.S. Government by surprise.
Most of the children are from Central America – and are making the dangerous journey in order to flee the escalating violence in their home countries. (Honduras, for example, now has the highest murder rate in the world.) This week, the U.S. Appropriations Committee approved almost $78 million in additional funds to ramp up emergency resources to address the crisis.
According to a Los Angeles Times report, “Immigration agents are so overwhelmed that some children are being kept in detention and being processed during a longer time period than the 72-hour maximum requirement, these senior administration officials acknowledged. The officials briefed reporters on condition of anonymity. Although they said they had been prepared for an increase this year in the Rio Grande Valley, the influx was much greater than anticipated. As many as 90,000 minors are forecast to enter the U.S. this year without their parents or guardians, the officials said.”
The US Bishops have been ahead of this issue - In November of 2013, a delegation from the Migration and Refugee Services of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (MRS/USCCB) traveled to southern Mexico and Central America to examine and understand the growing trend of unaccompanied migrating children and youth fleeing from the region. They issued a 16-page report, Mission to Central America: The Flight of Unaccompanied Children to the United States (2013). The report is available in English and Spanish.
Again on June 4th, the US Bishops urged the US Administration and Congress to protect the unaccompanied children and to respond to the root causes of poverty and the increasing violence as a long-term solution to the issue.
“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.” Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration.
“This is a very complicated problem, but its roots must be addressed, both by our government and governments in the region,” said Bishop Elizondo. He added that the recent announcement by the Administration of an inter-agency task force headed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was a “good first step.”