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Crossing the Line: Government, charitable groups respond to border crisis — an analysis
KEN LEONARD/Courtesy —
A border checkpoint near San Clemente, Calif., is unmanned, as indicated in this photo by Ken Leonard, a Floresville native. Often, this checkpoint has traffic backed up, as Border Patrol agents check for illegal immigrants.
Wilson County NewsJuly 30, 2014 3,597 views 6 comments
The stream of undocumented immigrants crossing into the United States from Central and South America shows no sign of abating; with many of the undocumented immigrants already here, the question is no longer about stemming the tide, but how to care for those being detained.
Texas District 28 U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar met with Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández Alvarado last week to discuss the border crisis. One point of agreement was that the well-being of the children should be a top priority, while governments continue to address the root causes of the immigration crisis.
Former Arkansas governor and presidential nominee Mike Huckabee, who hosts a syndicated radio show, recently addressed a conundrum many Americans face: What’s the Christian thing to do about these immigrants?
The United States, as a nation, has a proven track record of giving and reaching out to those in need. Americans have generously given to alleviate hunger, drought, thirst, and other needs across the globe in the wake of tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes, and more.
But many are immobilized about how to address this situation on our own border.
Huckabee offered this perspective.
“Let’s be clear -- there is a Christian thing and there’s a government thing,” he said in a Facebook post. “... Helping the poor and the homeless and the helpless is indeed the duty of the church. But the duty of the government is to protect us -- not provide for us. ... Instead of straining social service budgets and education budgets and court budgets in the U.S., it would be better if our government acted competently and did its constitutional job to secure our borders.”
The Archdiocese of San Antonio, responding from a Christian and humanitarian standpoint, is encouraging people of the archdiocese to “reach out with love to the unaccompanied minors.”
Archbishop Gustavo Garc’a-Siller said July 23, “These immigrants are people like ourselves, not mere problems or statistics or irritants. They are our sisters and brothers. Let us embrace them with traditional American compassion.”
He invited parishes and missions in the archdiocese to donate, suggesting items such as Spanish-language Bibles and New Testaments, children’s clothing (sizes-toddler through age 17), new packaged underwear, toiletries, cash donations, and other items. Catholic Charities in San Antonio will deliver the donations to Catholic agencies in Laredo and Brownsville, for transporting to locations where they are needed.
Charitable groups have reached out to help accommodate, feed, clothe, and medically aid the immigrants. Such organizations are being stretched financially, and many have sought funds to help meet the needs. The source of some such funding may be surprising. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services -- funded by taxpayers -- has directed grants for “Residence Care and Transitional to Foster Care Services” specifically to aid “unaccompanied alien children.” Among the numerous grant recipients:
•The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, D.C., $6.7 million
•Baptist Child & Family Services, San Antonio, Texas, $280 million
•St. Michael’s Homes for Children, Houston (via Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Houston-Galveston), $2.8 million and $1.39 million
•Lutheran Social Services of the South, Inc., Austin, $8.38 million
•Seton Home, San Antonio, $2.7 million
•St. Peter St. Joseph Children’s Home, San Antonio, $7.08 million.
While Border Patrol resources are diverted from securing the border to handling the huge number of detainees, Texas Gov. Rick Perry has mobilized National Guard troops to assist with security. The troops will assist with security while more Border Patrol personnel are trained. Perry said the cost will be borne by Texas taxpayers.
Resources in cities in the states bordering Mexico are stretched, not only the charitable organizations. Because of this, Rep. Cuellar requested financial assistance and reimbursement July 25 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for communities affected by the border humanitarian crisis.
“These communities have expended hard-earned taxpayer dollars in support of law enforcement and community efforts to address the surge of unaccompanied minors crossing the border,” Cuellar wrote to FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate. “... Our local governments and non-profits understand our federal law enforcement are stretched thin during this surge and they have stepped up to provide resources and assist where they can.” He asked for “... reimbursements for the costs they have incurred.”
As of press time July 28, a response from FEMA was not available.
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