WASHINGTON – From the head of the U.S. agency in charge of the welfare of more than 50,000 Central American children who have been apprehended at the Mexican border, to the Honduran cardinal who heads the international Catholic relief agency, Caritas, the message was clear, those minors are as much refugees as the people fleeing upheaval in Syria or South Sudan.
“How are these children different from refugees from Sudan” or other wartorn countries, asked Eskinder Negash, director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, known as ORR, in the Department of Health and Human Services. “Regardless of whether they have family here, they are refugees.”
By virtue of his position, Negash personally is legally responsible for the welfare of approximately 50,000 minors in ORR custody as arrangements are sought for them to be placed with relatives or in foster care while deportation is pursued.
Speakers at the 2014 National Migration Conference and in interviews with Catholic News Service said broad discussions about migration issues worldwide inevitably led to the recent surge of children from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador across the U.S. border.
From an average of 6,000 or 7,000 such minors a year as recently as a few years ago, by mid-June, Homeland Security had apprehended more than 52,000 such children in this fiscal year. That has created a crisis for the Border Patrol, which first encounters them, and for ORR, which must find places to safely care for them.
Negash drew gasps from the audience when he explained that his responsibility for ORR’s charges includes personally approving health care decisions, such as how to treat an 11-year-old girl who’s pregnant, or another pregnant teen, who was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer.
The unaccompanied minors and other refugees for whom his office is responsible come with myriad horrible stories, he said.
“There is rape, human trafficking, a lot of abuse and a lot of them are sick,” he said. “I’m not telling you this to depress you more, but so you’ll talk about it more.”
This is a prolife issue, not an occasion for theorizing that Obama/Soros/A Vast Liberal Conspiracy are conscripting thousands of Central American children to make conservatives look like ice cold, hard-hearted skinflints and jingos eager to turn away desperate children in profound crisis. As many conservatives are abundantly demonstrating, they do not need a government handout to do what they are perfectly capable of doing all on their own. But as George W. Bush demonstrates, not all conservatives behave this way toward obvious human need.
There is no conspiracy. There are just children (also known as “Jesus Christ”) in desperate need. The only thing Catholics need concern themselves with is that fact, not “who wins” and “who loses” in some Beltway power struggle.