The problems at the border now go far beyond the family separations of last summer. Children who are separated from their families are supposed to be protected under the Flores Agreement that “requires that children be speedily moved from Department of Homeland Security custody to the care of a purportedly more suitable agency,” and to be “housed in safe and sanitary conditions.”
That is not happening. Rather, the children are being held for long periods of time, without their basic human needs being met, in deplorable conditions. Necessities such as adequate food, water, bathroom and shower facilities, basic hygiene supplies, etc. are not available. Children are sleeping on concrete floors–if they have enough room to lie down–in cage-like structures.
Additionally, there is overcrowding at these shelters due in part to a surge in migration at the border including 144,000 migrants last month, a 13-year high. At least a dozen children have died crossing the U.S.-Mexico border this year, more than any year since 2014. And it’s not just the U.S. side that is experiencing issues. These days, Mexican border cities are overcrowded as migrants wait for an immigration lawyer.
“I have worked with asylum seekers for 10 years,” says one immigration lawyer. “I have never seen people as scared, who are just viscerally terrified while they’re begging me, ‘Please don’t let me get sent back.'”
How can we close our eyes and ears to the cries of these people? Last week, people of faith participated in religious events on the border–the border that has recently witnessed lots of outrage from all over the country and the world after photos of a father and daughter who drowned in the Rio Grande trying to seek asylum in the U.S. were released.
Similar problems are happening throughout the world! Last Wednesday, the world was shocked by the acts of violence caused by air attacks that struck a detention center for migrants in Libya. Pope Francis urges us not to tolerate these acts of violence. He called Christians to, “follow the spirit of the beatitudes by comforting the poor and the oppressed, especially the migrants and refugees who are rejected, exploited, and left to die. They are persons; these are not mere social or migrant issues. This is not just about migrants, in the two-fold sense that migrants are, first, human persons and that they are the symbol of all those rejected by today’s globalized society.”
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