Reader Jason Hall writes…

I am at the USCCB’s National Migration Conference this week. Today I heard several stories about these children. In Honduras, which would be declared a failed state at this point if it wasn’t in the Western Hemisphere, a gang came to a woman’s house to tell her her two young daughters had been selected to be “queens of the gang.” Which means countless acts of rape and eventually murder. The mother paid a coyote all she had to get her daughters out of the country. And of course, the coyotes abused them on the journey. A majority of these children are refugees in every way except official legal status.

It’s no big mystery why there is a flood of children being sent north by desperate parents.  No big conspiracy.  As people become poorer, they become prey.  And prey seek to flee predators and help their children escape if they can’t.

How we receive those desperate people–those desperate children–will be how we receive Jesus Christ.  Period.

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  • Doug Sirman

    This is nothing new. That doesn’t mean it’s acceptable but poor people in Mexico, and Central America have been facing this kind of abuse and exploitation for decades. The question for me is why the sudden increase now? It is true that coyotes have been claiming that the US will be offering a new amnesty agreement any day now, but that’s not enough. It’s also true that many political and religious leaders have been talking up amnesty which has historically bumped up the influx of illegal immigrants. But frankly, neither of these explain the massive movement of parents abandoning their children on the border.

    How bad does it have to be, for you as a Mom or Dad to spend every last penny you have traveling north to get your child to a place where they can be “safely” abandoned? How bad is the present, where that is seen as the best of all possible futures?

    It’s truly sad, but I wonder if public statements of charitable intent toward illegal immigrants may actually encourage illegal immigration, because there is no legal pathway for non-degreed Hispanics and Latinos. Subsequently, they come over using coyotes. Coyotes who are just as involved in the drug trade and the slave trade. What needs to happen is that immigration, ALL immigration, needs to be taken out of the hands of the drug runners and slavers.

  • Tami Gregory

    Too bad the United States is a secular and not a faith-based country.

    • IRVCath

      And yet the vast majority of the people claim to be Christian. Should this not reflect incwhat they do, yes, even at the picket line or in the voting booth?

    • Hezekiah Garrett

      I agree, I’m just surprised you think so.

  • Francisco J Castellanos

    Funny, where our xenophobic compatriots see these children as invaders and a threat, I only see the face of Jesus.
    It must be my Catholic-colored glasses.
    What will they say to the Master when they finally meet him face-to-face? “Lord, when did we see you in a refugee shelter, without your parents, not speaking English, and with a brown face?” I can only guess at the terrible answer that they will receive.

    • kmk

      The description last week of the 11 year old whose body they found in the desert–OUR desert–Angry Bird sneakers (or might have been a tshirt), plastic Rosary around his neck–terrible. We have a lot of empty Catholic school buildings up here in Baltimore. We send our youth on work-camp pilgrimages to Latin America and the Caribbean –can’t we help these children here? I pray that we do.

      • Francisco J Castellanos

        It breaks my heart. And of course, politicians from both parties grandstanding and playing politics with this tragedy.Shame.

  • LFM

    Apparently the US does have some responsibility, in the larger sense, for this crisis, although not in the way some people think, as the result of the civil wars it encouraged. Nor is it necessarily a response to poverty, which is supposed to be less critical now than it was 20 years ago.

    I have read (in such journals as foreign affairs) that the would-be immigrants from Latin America are indeed responding both to hopes of amnesty bruited by your present government, and to threats from the ferocious gang activity in their countries.

    The gang problem in Central America is supposed to be the result of the US’s attempts to quell gang activity in Los Angeles after the 1992 riots. At that time, many gang members who had been born in Central American countries but grown up as illegal immigrants in the US were rounded up and either jailed or sent ‘home’, not speaking much Spanish and unused to conditions in, say, El Salvador or the Honduras. They unsurprisingly took up their old activities, preying on the local populations, selling drugs, snaring new members through terror, and so on. Eventually, they were joined by those gang members whom the US released from jail and deported.

    Supposedly, American policing has greatly improved in its handling of gang activity since the early 1990s, and Central American governments might have much to learn from it, Unfortunately, both your Republican and Democrat parties have too much of a vested interest in encouraging illegal immigration for votes and cheap labour, while those who object are silenced by their own parties.

    Sigh. I’m not claiming to be an expert, but it certainly looks to me as if there is some truth in this explanation.

  • Thomas Boynton Tucker

    Oh please. of course you can find some awful stories. But we have borders, and regulations for enforcing who enters, for a reason. You can find stories about violence being perpetrated by border-crossers on innocent US citiizens as well. We need to enforce our borders whiel also helping people in other countries. What is happening now does not do this. And I am tired of the implication that enforcing borders is un-Christian.

    • HornOrSilk

      The early Christian missionaries were often killed because they didn’t respect “borders.”

      • Thomas Boynton Tucker

        Can you elaborate on what your “point” is?

        • HornOrSilk

          You tire of “enforcing borders” as being “unChristian.” But the point is the earliest Christian missionaries broke “borders” all the time. Even the Holy Family did for their journey into Egypt. They were, as a family, “illegal migrants” in Egypt, and the Egyptian authorities pursued them there because of it, too. There is some value to borders, to be sure, but they are relative, not absolute, for the sake of people, not people for the sake of borders.

          • Thomas Boynton Tucker

            Ah, common ground. I agree with you.

          • capaxdei

            The Egyptian authorities pursued the Holy Family? I thought they lost the trail thanks to the Christmas Spider.

            • HornOrSilk

              Yes, according to the history (which I got from Coptic sources, visiting the churches on the sites the Holy Family went while hiding from the authorities), they were indeed on the run from Egyptian authorities. Some of the legendary additions to it includes the notion that idols were falling apart when the Holy Family went some places, and that got the priests upset. But yes, the tradition includes a lot of on the run and hiding from the Egyptians.

              http://www.touregypt.net/holyfamily.htm is a good discussion of the topic, and the source (Pope Theophilus of Alexandria)

        • Elmwood

          point is the Holy Family fled Herod and escaped into Egypt. if it were up to red-neck talk radio america, they would have bused them back.

    • Eve Fisher

      People don’t send their children on a 1500 mile journey, with no guarantees of survival, using up all their available money, putting them in the hands of dangerous gang members, because everything is wonderful at home. Nor are these children going to get a free ride: those terrified, exhausted children are being shipped to detention centers where they will get a cot and food – and that’s it – while they are being processed and then will be shipped back. We are not keeping them. We’re just treating them like disease-carrying rodents.

      • Thomas Boynton Tucker

        Who knows what’s going to happen? I doubt that you do. As for disease, news reports are that some are indeed carrying diseases.
        And who said everything is wonderful at home. I said we have borders and rules to regulate who may cross them, for a reason. Do you lock your doors at night?

        • Eve Fisher

          Actually, I live in a small town where almost no one locks their doors. I do lock my doors, but I grew up in the big, bad city. The news reports about diseases are reporting what hysterical people have said to excuse protesting against the buses – which aren’t coming to put the children in their homes, but to put them in processing centers, where they will be literally locked up, away from the general public.

          The whole thing, sadly, reminds me of the MS St. Louis, which in 1939 tried to to find homes for 937 Jewish refugees, and was turned away from almost every port – including Cuba, Canada, and the United States. Hardly anyone believed the rumors about what was happening to Jews in Germany, many didn’t care; they didn’t have appropriate visas, the US had immigration quotas which had already been met, and so they were turned away and sent back to Europe. 365 survived the WWII. The rest didn’t.

    • freddy

      You are tired of the notion of the implication that enforcing borders is un-Christian. Just think about that for a minute.
      Enforcing borders. Against children. Well, I happen to think that is un-Christian.
      But then I think that the Christian view is to think we are all strangers and aliens in this world, and we’d better be welcoming to each other or face wrath in the world to come.

      • Thomas Boynton Tucker

        Then you are flying in the face of long-standing Christian moral teaching, which you are perfectly free to do, of course. But moral theology has always taught that we are allowed, and in fact required, to defend ourselves and our families, and our countries. Against children, you say? Well, who knows, and that’s the whole point of enforcing the border and following proper regulations in deciding who to allow in, and who not to. Who knows how many criminals, gang members and other ne’er-do-wells are mixed in with the children? We don’t, and won’t, if the numbers entering are so overwhelming ( which it sounds like they are) that proper investigation can’t be performed. Enforcing borders is most definitely not unChristian, regardless of what you think. It is prudent, and wise, and moral.

        • freddy

          You know, I’m not an expert in Christian moral tradition, but I seriously doubt there’s anything about defending ourselves from refugee children.
          .
          And what I’m tired of is fear mongering as an excuse for lack of compassion.

          • Thomas Boynton Tucker

            Nice. I have never advocated no compassion. In fact, we should show compassion. But I think we should also have proper safeguards at the borders instead of letting in anyone and everyone. You don’t know how many of these so-called refugee children are violent criminals or carrying communicable diseases, do you? Is there something wrong with having regulations at our borders? Why is that offensive to you?

            • freddy

              See, you’re not entirely wrong, in principle. But you’re trying to be a “big-picture” person and make broad generalizations and sweeping statements with core principles. When there are real actual human children, our brothers and sisters in Christ, in need, their need must come first.
              .
              You also seem prone to jump to conclusions. When I wrote “lack of compassion” you apparently read, “no compassion.” When I wrote that I doubted there was anything in Christian moral tradition about defending ourselves from refugee children, you read, “advocate of completely open borders.”
              .
              I get that this is a difficult situation, but you seem to be allowing fear to do your thinking for you, and that’s not healthy.

              • Thomas Boynton Tucker

                Well, I certainly didn’t parse your words like a lawyer at a deposition. Perhaps if I had seen some acknowledgement that borders have benefits, I would not have taken you to be advocating open borders.
                BTW, prudence is not the same as fear.
                With that I will bow out as we r talking past each other. God be with you.

                • freddy

                  and with your spirit

                  • LFM

                    Your responses to this man’s questions were manipulative and shameful. It was not he, but you, who twisted words to suggest things that he did not intend to say. You have set up a hard-line definition of compassion that allows for very limited (or no) questioning of people so anxious to enter the US that they might say almost anything to get in.

                    I know women who ended up dead because of women (I am sure you are a woman, no?) like you.

                    • freddy

                      What the HELL are you talking about?
                      Read Mark’s post. He’s not instigating a pedantic discussion about national sovereignty in the twenty-first century, but a plea for compassion toward the least of our brothers. Agreeing with that is manipulative?
                      .
                      What, then, am I to think of your frankly sexist and insulting comment, “I know women who ended up dead because of women (I am sure you are a woman, no?) like you.”

                    • LFM

                      A ‘pedantic’ discussion about national sovereignty? National sovereignty is or ought to be part of any discussion about compassion towards illegal immigrants. The manipulative aspect of these discussions is that they all frame the issue as a matter of sheltering ‘frightened children’. Nor are people who are suspicious about why this crisis is happening *now* – and not, for example, during the years of the civil wars in Central America – necessarily paranoid or conspiracy-minded or even ‘right wing’. Such language, too is tendentious or manipulative. It is possible to remain compassionate while being practical.

                      As for my closing comment, I was tired and irritable at the time I wrote it and would not express myself that way now. Without wanting to go into details, though, I have known people who caused not themselves, but others, intense suffering by the exercise of compassion without prudence or thought. There can be no prudence in actively or passively encouraging large numbers of people to cross the border in circumstances that make it nearly impossible to check their backgrounds, to keep tabs on them when they are placed in various cities, to ensure that – if some do turn out to be criminal (and under these conditions many will) – they are deported promptly.

                      Nor can there be any compassion towards the poorest and most vulnerable citizens of your country in creating direct competition for wages that are already lowered by recession, or for services like welfare, schools and roads.That is another aspect of this crisis that many commenters here do not seem to take seriously, apparently regarding it as merely a cover for selfishness.

                    • freddy

                      Thank you for a courteous and rational response.
                      .
                      I guess where I’m coming from on this is that on the one hand I firmly believe that Catholics are often called to be “both/and” people: that one can donate to help these children, advocate for sane immigration laws, and pressure businesses to provide a living wage to all employees.
                      .
                      On the other hand, and maybe it’s just due to the vagaries of the internet, but it seems a bit ham-fisted to focus on one aspect on a blog post devoted to highlighting a different aspect, in a way that comes across as rather contrarian. It reminds me of a comment once heard at a fundraiser for victims of a hurricane: “Well, why don’t these silly people just move instead of rebuild. Another hurricane’s sure to come along, and we’ll have to do this all over again!”
                      .
                      So maybe a valid point, but maybe not the best time/place? I don’t know; that’s just how it seems to me. God bless you.

                    • LFM

                      From my perspective, it seems necessary to weigh in with counter-arguments because Mark’s narrative has been so one-sided, not simply in favor of the child immigrants, but, if I’m remembering correctly, in favor of amnesty for all illegal immigrants, *and* hostile to the point of name-calling to anyone who thinks these steps might not be wise.

                      [edit – added later] Another issue: living wages are very difficult to maintain in border areas in which illegals can undercut the wages of legal workers because they don’t have to pay income tax and their employers don’t have to pay payroll taxes; in which employers are not penalized for hiring ‘illegals’; and in which the illegal workers will promptly be replaced by more of the same if they are given amnesty without strict border enforcement. (And I do know that illegal workers pay some taxes, like sales and perhaps property taxes, perhaps even income tax – but really, how many people are in the last category?)

                      I’m not sure I can agree with the general principle that seems to be implicit in this comment, i.e. that it’s contrarian to highlight possible drawbacks when someone makes a suggestion about a controversial problem. Is that not what discussion is for? Or do you think that people should only join in a comment thread when they agree with a post? A good many of my friends appear to think this is a good social rule for the internet and real life, but I find it makes for very dull, not to mention uninformative, conversations. (That’s why I gave up on Facebook.)