Bishop Minerva Carcaño, the Los Angeles Area Resident Bishop of the United Methodist Church, is acting with urgency. Along with more than 100 other religious leaders and activists, she was arrested for civil disobedience at the White House for protesting the deportation of the unaccompanied children crossing our border after fleeing from the brutal violence and poverty of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.
Referring to first visit to Port Hueneme, she said, “The naval base has been turned into a holding site for these children, and it was to capacity with 575 children and young people between the ages of 13 and 17, and they’ve all been through horrific experiences. Many of the girls have experienced sexual assaults, and some of them have been raped . . . If you ask them what the prayer in their heart is, they’ll tell you immediately, with a sense of faith, that indeed it’s going to happen – and their prayer is that God will give them life.”
Bishop Carcaño spoke to the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF)’s Samuel DeWitt Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry at CDF Haley Farm in mid-July about the humanitarian crisis of thousands of desperate children crossing our border. The details are haunting: An unaccompanied toddler being cared for by little girls sitting in a locked cell for 12 days. A grandmother with three little granddaughters who a gang had threatened to take if she didn’t pay more than $20,000.
Nearly 60,000 unaccompanied children traveling alone. They are in many ways the latest innocent victims of the U.S. war on drugs. Even as the U.S. worked with Mexico and Colombia to close down the drug cartels and gangs there, the massive market for illegal drugs here in our nation has remained.
Part of the solution may rest with the faith community here and abroad. I am encouraged to see the coming together of many faiths in McAllen, Texas to respond to the crisis in their city. But this crisis needs a compassionate response from every city and our entire nation.
Reunite with family
The best solution, as always for children, is to reunite them with their families whenever and as soon as possible. Of the nearly 60,000 unaccompanied children who have crossed the border since October, it is reported that nearly 50,000 of them have been released to sponsors or family members, sometimes even to a parent already living in the U.S. The continuing horror is for those children being kept in detention like those Bishop Carcaño keeps visiting.
In her July Haley Farm sermon, Bishop Carcaño said: “If our children see us ignoring the plight of the immigrant child, what do we teach them? Do we not teach them that immigrant children are worthless, not worth our attention or our care?
It is deplorable that Members of Congress left town for their own summer vacations with the humanitarian crisis continuing and without providing the resources the government needs to ensure safety and justice for these innocent children.
Marian Wright Edelman is president of the Children’s Defense Fund.