Speaking before the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives on June 25 was Catholic Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso TX. Bishop Seitz led a team of fellow Catholic bishops to Mexico and Central America in November 2013 with the purpose of understanding the causes of child migration to the United States. Bishop Seitz, after thanking Chairman Robert Goodlatte (R-VA) framed the issue in terms of Scripture. "...I note that the protection of migrant children is an especially important issue for the Catholic Church, as one of Jesus’ first experiences as an infant was to flee for his life from King Herod with his family to Egypt. Indeed, Jesus Himself was a child migrant fleeing violence. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were asylum-seekers and faced the same choice as the one facing thousands of children fleeing to the United States each year."
Bishop Seitz continued his emotional appeal, saying "I am here to speak with you today about this special population of vulnerable children who are very close to my heart as I have met with many of them, some as young as five years old, while they were being cared for in Catholic Charities facilities in my diocese in El Paso. In addition to ministering to these youth in El Paso, in November 2013, I was privileged to lead a United States Conference of Catholic Bishops delegation traveling to Southern Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to examine and understand the flight of unaccompanied migrating children and youth from the region and stand in solidarity with these children and their families. In January 2014, we issued our findings from the trip in a report entitled, “USCCB: Mission to Central America: Flight of the Unaccompanied Immigrant Children to the United States” (2014 USCCB Central America Report 2014)."
The bishop made a number of recommendations for the members of the Committee to contemplate:
* Address the issue of unaccompanied child migration as a humanitarian crisis requiring cooperation from all branches of the US government and appropriate the necessary funding to respond to the crisis in a holistic and child protection-focused manner;
* Adopts policies to ensure that unaccompanied migrant children receive appropriate child welfare services, legal assistance, and access to immigration protection where appropriate;
* Require that a best interest of the child standard be applied in immigration proceedings governing unaccompanied alien children;
* Examine root causes driving this forced migration situation, such as violence from non-state actors in countries of origin and a lack of citizen security and adequate child protection mechanisms; and
* Seek and support innovative home country and transit country solutions that would enable children to remain and develop safely in their home country."
Congressional Democrats, as well as pro-immigration advocates, are currently demanding that President Barack Obama use his executive powers to circumvent Congress and halt or curtail deportations of illegal aliens. However, on June 20, the Obama administration announced a "surge" of law enforcement officials is being devised in order to address the wave of illegal immigrants - many of whom are minors - who have crossed into the U.S. in recent months. As children from Central America keep pouring across the nation's southwest border, the Obama administration announced Friday that it will respond with a "surge" of immigration judges and U.S. attorneys to speed up the deportation of some undocumented immigrants. The administration is providing funding to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — where most of the unaccompanied children are coming from — to receive the deported immigrants and keep them there.
The Obama administration has organized a federal task force to care for the flood of young children and other minors who have been caught crossing the border. Federal money is being disbursed to provide legal counsel for children appearing in immigration court. On June 20, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson inspected the federal government's handling of the influx of immigrants on the border. Meanwhile, Vice President Biden met with Central American presidents to find a solution to the exodus. "The question before us is how can we make the process more efficient, given the surge in the number of individuals who are being apprehended," DHS Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said on June 20.
Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.