Catholic Bishop Kevin J. Farrell of Dallas TX has launched an appeal for volunteers and attorneys to come to the aid of illegal immigrant minors who have crossed into the United States. Speaking to the humanitarian crisis on the U.S./Mexico border, Bishop Farrell said of the minors, many of whom are unaccompanied by adults and have no identity documents, "For a community of faith, at the moment, the issue is not limited simply on a political debate on immigration, but on the urgent help towards those most in need. " He added, “We are the number 1 country in the world when it comes to helping people."
Speaking to reporters on July 27, Bishop Farrell responded to Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s deployment of National Guard troops along the border, "I am sure that the governor has his own reasons for sending 1,000 troops to the border area", while adding, "But this does not solve the problem at the moment, but as a Church, we are now worried about the children ... This is a humanitarian crisis that will judge the character and moral level of our nation."
The number of illegal alien minors, who mostly come from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, is reaching record levels. The U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection has reported that 57,525 children were arrested between October 1, 2013 and June 30, 2014. This figure shows an increase of 106 percent compared to last year, when border authorities arrested 27,884 children. By some estimates, the figure could grow to 95,000 by the year’s end.
Catholic Charities of Dallas and the Hispanic Bar Association of Dallas have begun recruiting bilingual volunteer lawyers to assist the children at no cost at immigration court appointments. Already, about 160 lawyers have joined.
In June, Catholic Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville joined with Baptists to visit various facilities where immigrant minors are being held. He told the Fides news service, "The leaders of the government must find a way to remedy the situation of these refugees - says the Bishop - especially because we have children and mothers who are suffering enormously. Each government's response at a federal and state level, should focus on this." Bishop Flores expressed support for current federal immigration law, which provides asylum to minors and a chance to appear in court to determine their refugee status. "The Church will always try to ensure that human rights are respected, especially in the case of the protection of these people", the Bishop said, while noting that "faced with a humanitarian crisis, humanitarian response is needed." He called upon federal and local law enforcement to treat the illegal immigrants with compassion. Following the ecumenical Christian visit to the holding facilities, the group sent a letter to Congress expressing concern about the humanitarian situation.
Hundreds of unaccompanied minors, some as young as three years old, are overwhelming caregivers at a new center opened by Catholic Charities near a bus station in McAllen TX. The center was opened on June 11. Catholic Charities, as well as Lutheran Social Services and other Christian charities, are helping house and feed the immigrants.