In a letter addressed to a migration and development conference convened in Mexico City, Pope Francis urged the world to protect the thousands of unaccompanied minors migrating from Central America to the United States. The Vatican’s envoy to Mexico, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, read the letter on August 12 to the conference. The pope wrote “such a humanitarian emergency demands as a first urgent measure that these minors be protected and duly taken in.”
Alluding to the dangers of traversing alone the length of Mexico and Central America, where children face death and dismemberment by the trains they hop from the Guatemala-Mexico border, or rape and murder by narcotraffickers, Pope Francis wrote “This is a category of migrants from Central America and Mexico itself who cross the border with the United States under extreme conditions and in pursuit of a hope that in most cases turns out to be vain.” The letter was dated July 11.
More than 52,000 unaccompanied minors from Central America have been processed since October 2013 by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Last month, the federal government deemed the immigrant surge an “urgent humanitarian situation” and then began to process and house minors in Texas and Arizona, and then throughout the country. Michigan, for example, is among the states to receive some of the minors. However, Gov. Terry Branstad (R) of Iowa said that he would not allow any to enter his state.
The Obama administration is working with the governments of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico, in an effort to discourage the exodus from crime-ridden Central America. In addition, the federal government is also funding public information campaigns in those countries to that end.
President Barack Obama and Congress are still wrangling over the former’s request for $3.7 billion in supplemental funding to process the minors through the immigration courts and system. Officials in the Obama administration say that most of them will be repatriated.
Pope Francis is planning a visit to Mexico to take place in September 2015. Various news outlets suggested that he will visit the troubled border region through which migrants leave behind Mexico and their Latin American homelands for the United States. Various Catholic parishes have responded to the crisis already, having provided lodging, food, clothing and other services to migrants. Other Christian denominations, such as Texas Baptist Men, have also pitched in.