The influx of child migrants at the U.S./Mexico border has come to light in the most recent news cycle. Forced to enter the country due to the horribly violent situations in their home countries of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, unaccompanied minors encounter many dangers during the long journey north to the border – human trafficking and sexual abuse, to name a few.
The other interns here at the Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach and I were lucky enough to attend a lobby/advocacy visit focusing on this issue on Thursday, June 19th, with the purpose of sharing information regarding child migrants with Representative O’Rourke’s staffer from the Columban Mission Center’s district in El Paso, Texas. I was grateful to have this lobbying experience, and it was very cool to see how interests outside the government, like ourselves, are able to have some impact on what goes into the policymaking process. We discussed the need to focus on the root causes of the recent influx of unaccompanied minors, like the dangerous situations many children face in their home countries. Parents are forced to make the horribly difficult decision to send their kids north because of the reality they face – forced gang recruitment and drug cartel-related violence.
It’s just important to keep in mind when considering migration issues that our faith calls us to embrace the stranger. As Pope Francis tweeted from his Twitter account @Pontifex in July 2013, “We pray for a heart which will embrace immigrants. God will judge us upon how we have treated the most needy.” Through lobbying and through using our faithful voices, we encourage our representatives to look past rhetoric and political grandstanding for something more – we encourage them to look to the root reasons for this exodus from Central America and really consider the plight of these children who have journeyed so far.