Photo: Unaccompanied Minors
The Children’s Services unit within USCCB’s department of Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) provides community-based services to support the reunification of unaccompanied children with their family members. The USCCB released the following statement.
Overview of Current Situation
Central American children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras are migrating to the United States alone in record numbers. While not a new phenomenon, the number of children who are making the perilous journey alone has increased exponentially—6,775, on average, arrived between 2003—2011, and upwards of 90,000 are projected to arrive in Fiscal Year 2014 (October 1, 2013—September 30, 2014).
A delegation of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) traveled to Central America in November 2013 and reported in Mission to Central America: The Flight of Unaccompanied Children to the United States that multiple interrelated factors are contributing to the increase in forced child migration. Some of these factors include: a lack of strong social institutions and civil society support, abuse in the family stemming from pressure on family units due to violence and family separation, a lack of viable economic and educational opportunities, and environmental factors affecting crop production. However, the delegation reported that “one overriding factor has played a decisive and
forceful role in recent years: generalized violence at the state and local levels and a corresponding breakdown of the rule of law have threatened citizen security and created a culture of fear and hopelessness.”
Catholic Teaching Underpinnings of Our Work
The sanctity of the family and the need to protect the vulnerable is an integral element of Catholic approach to service and pastoral care in the United States. This is evidenced in the January 2003 pastoral statement on migration of the US and Mexican Catholic Bishops, Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope, which specifically speaks of the unaccompanied child, noting this special population’s heightened vulnerability, and the corresponding need for special consideration and care that these children should receive.
It is the view of the Church that protecting family values should not depend on a family’s nationality or immigration status and through its Justice for Immigrants Campaign USCCB promotes humane and compassionate immigration reform that preserves the family unit as the cornerstone of the immigration system.