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EPPN: “Support unaccompanied immigrant children”

EPPN: “Support unaccompanied immigrant children”

Episcopal Public Policy Network issued an action statement today:

Please take action today to let your decision makers know that as a person of faith you support a proportionate and humane response to the needs of Central American children.

Here is the letter they crafted for people to send:

As an Episcopalian and your constituent, I urge you to reject changes to the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) of 2008 and other policies that would remove lifesaving protections and services from vulnerable unaccompanied children.

An immediate response to this crisis is needed, but removing key protections from bipartisan legislation, especially at a time when more children are in need of these life-saving protections, is the wrong response. Legislative proposals such as the HUMANE Act (Helping Unaccompanied Minors and Alleviating National Emergency) do not offer appropriate humanitarian solutions to this crisis and do not address the systemic violence and instability that continues to force children to flee for their lives.

As both the House and the Senate consider the appropriate response to this crisis and the President’s emergency supplemental appropriations request, I urge you to support legislation that will:

Ensure that the wellbeing of vulnerable children is the driving force behind our policy response. Children should not be treated as an enforcement priority but should have access to child welfare personnel, legal counsel, and the services they need to navigate the immigration system. The TVPRA and other laws governing the protection and care for these children should not be changed and increases to family detention should be opposed.

Provide vital funding for refugee services in FY14. The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) within Health and Human Services is the office that provides life saving support services to resettled refugees, asylees, Iraqi and Afghan Special Immigrant Visa recipients, Cuban and Haitian entrants, and survivors of human trafficking and torture. ORR is also responsible for providing care for unaccompanied immigrant children. Earlier this summer $94 million was reprogrammed away from refugee services to care for unaccompanied children. Please support the $1.83 billion increase for the Office of Refugee Resettlement, requested in the President’s Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Request for Fiscal Year 2014. The U.S. must show leadership by protecting unaccompanied children while maintaining our commitment to refugee resettlement and serving all of the populations within ORR’s mandate equally.

Avoid conflating the need for emergency funding with sweeping policy decisions. The violence in Central America that has displaced millions and forced tens of thousands of children to flee is emergency situation that requires an emergency response. Without additional funding for ORR, refugees and other vulnerable groups and the communities that welcome them across the country will face significant impacts, as early as this month. Changes to immigration policy decisions that reduce due process for children, however, signify a significant and weighty change in U.S. humanitarian policy and law. Changes of this magnitude must be considered carefully and deliberately on their own.

The United States is capable of meeting this challenge with compassion and Episcopalians stand ready to work with Congress and the Administration in the implementation of humanitarian solutions to this crisis.


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Ariel Miller

I just called the Diocese of West Texas and learned more about their current role. Funds sent to the Diocese currently are used by two parishes on the border to provide material humanitarian aid, including clothing and shoes and backpacks containing travel-sized personal care supplies such as soap, deodorant, toothpaste and diapers. It is most helpful to send money rather than stuff, as this gives local parishes the greatest flexibility in buying just what’s needed.

Catholic Social Services of West Texas is able to use financial donations to help cover other services including legal representation.

Ariel Miller

Ways you can help Central American children fleeing their homelands: The US Catholic Conference of Bishops sent a fact-finding team to Central America last fall which documented factors including gang violence, extortion, and recent crop failure that are driving families to the desperate recourse of sending their children towards other countries – not just ours – that they believe will be safer.

“While we strongly support the appropriation of supplemental funds to deal with the challenges posed by arriving children from Central America,” wrote Catholic Bishop Eusebio Elizondo in the July 17 letter of the Catholic Conference of Bishops to Congress, “we generally disagree with the deterrence strategy reflected in the Administration’s supplemental appropriation request. The United States should uphold its domestic and international legal obligations by ensuring that these children, who are fleeing violence, injury, sexual assault, and death, are provided due process protections and cared for in a child-appropriate manner. Over the long-term, the root causes of violence and the lack of opportunity for youth in these countries must be addressed.”

It’s urgent to contact your Senators and Representatives this week since they are debating the President’s request for supplemental funding.

I called Allison Duvall of Episcopal Migration Ministries to ask about other ways that Episcopalians can act immediately to help ensure the safety of these refugee children:

1. send money to help the Diocese of West Texas provide legal counsel to the children.

2. send material supplies (but call first to make sure the recipient organization can use what you’re sending) or volunteer to meet children’s immediate needs. The website of Catholic Charities of Central Texas lists several ways to aid churches on the front lines of response:

Background reading:

A Catholic task force went to Central America and Mexico on behalf of the US Catholic Conference of Bishops in November to learn about the reasons so many children are fleeing their homes. They published the following report:

This crisis is a humanitarian challenge to the entire region, not just the US. In her testimony to Congress July 10, Katie Conway, Immigration and Refugee Policy Analyst for the Episcopal Church, reported UN statistics that asylum requests from Guatemalans, Hondurans, and Salvadorans are up 712% since 2009 in surrounding, more stable countries including Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica and Belize.

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