W.Va. Catholic Charities responds to border crisis

PARKERSBURG – Catholic Charities West Virginia is responding the humanitarian crisis at the border where South American children are crossing into the United States to flee oppression.

The organization Tuesday said it is prepared to welcome the children by offering post-release services to unaccompanied minors released to a sponsor in West Virginia. Catholic Charities also has agreed to provide Brittany Young, immigration and refugee case manager for Catholic Charities and a Spanish-speaking immigration attorney, for two-week increments should Catholic Charities USA be called upon by the government to staff temporary shelters, the agency said.

“Most of the children fleeing to the United States without a parent or guardian are coming from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Many are fleeing violence in their home countries perpetuated by gangs who are partnering with transnational criminal organizations.” Young said. “Honduras, for example, has the world’s highest murder rate and children are often the target for recruitment where the choice is often join or die. Some are leaving their home countries due to poverty and lack of economic opportunity or to reunite with their families.”

Pope John Paul II at the 34th General Assembly of the United Nations in 1979 said the “right to freedom of movement, to internal and external migration” was one of many rights shared by all human beings.

“Catholic Charities West Virginia continues to communicate with Catholic Charities USA and USCCB about the current status of the crisis and will be prepared to assist with immigration legal services for the children who qualify for asylum or foster care in West Virginia,” said Catholic Charities migration and refugee services Director Kim Keene.

Keene encouraged residents to contact state legislators and ask them to grant asylum to the youth, provide funding for shelter, post-release services and legal representation, alternatives to detention and for additional immigration judges and courts.

“As Catholics, we are part of a faith community without borders with a long tradition of welcoming the stranger,” Keene said. “Let us act now, in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in crisis.”

Father Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA, said the children and families should not be viewed as a statistic.

“They are human beings. They are children of God and must be treated with dignity and respect, care and compassion,” he said.

Catholic Charities is procuring facilities, professionals such as immigration lawyers, physicians, case workers and licensed mental health counselors and providing technical, financial and in-kind assistance to local Catholic Charities agencies.