By now you've read and heard dozens of accounts (in The Christian Science Monitor, The Toronto Globe & Mail, The New York Times), of the tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors who are arriving on our borders from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and other countries to escape poverty and violence and perhaps to reunite with family members (Read more from the Pew Research Center). While our response should be to push for our government to take a more humanitarian approach to the situation, communities around the country are rallying to learn more about the situation, provide assistance and offer prayers. That's what we're doing in Albuquerque on Tuesday.
National Latino Evangelical Coalition, offered a passionate reflection on immigration at Bread for the World's National Gathering on June 9, placing a special emphasis on the situation of the children and youth who are coming across our southern border. He offers suggestions on how we must respond as people of faith and as a nation. His comments are in Italics.
"Tenemos un problema. Tenemos una crisis. Y si esta nación no despierta, la justicia nos juzgara junto con la historia. We have a problem. We have a crisis. And if we do not respond, both justice and history will judge us."The real threat of violence
Rev. Salguero offered an example of how gangs have taken control in Honduras. He spoke about young 38-year-old pastor who was invited to preach at a church in San Pedro Sula, the second largest city in Honduras. "While he was there...he starts talking about and preaching against violence in the city, and why the future of children--and particularly young men--it's important to enculturate them to a Gospel of love, and that violence is not the way forward. This young pastor, who spoke in Spanish, actually thought he was doing something good. Then the pastor of the local church said "you will leaving through the back door."
There was a legitimate reason for caution. Apparently, the visiting pastor's comments were not the type of suggestions that would be welcomed by members from the MS-13 gang, also known as the Mara Salvatrucha. Perhaps some of these gang members might be waiting outside the front door.
"It is an organized gang that preys on poor young men and poor young women because of the [detriorated]situations in Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and other places. It is now an international gang, with branches in Long Branch, NJ, Lakewood, NJ, and LA, and Phoenix Arizona, and Tucson., and McAllen, Texas
The reason these gangs are surging is because there is a real economic need.
Genesis puts it this way, "..because there was a famine in the land, Abraham descended into Egypt (Genesis 12:10)." Hunger, crime and gangs are all related."
How do we respond?
|Photo: New Mexico Faith Coalition for Immigrant Justice|
Many of you have probably seen it in the last month or so, maybe you have seen it before--there was a report in The New York Times about the unaccompanied children. Four or five years ago, we were averaging between 12,000 and 15,000 a year unaccompanied children crossing the border. And there was a famine so Abraham and his children descended into Egypt.
Then two years ago, the number went up: 25,000-30,000 This year,---we're in June, we're close to 60,000 uaccompanied children in America....
Maybe their parents died on the way here, maybe their parents were here first and tried to get them...The coyotes are exploiting them. Some of them are being exploited via human trafficking and prostitution.
Tenemos un problema. Tenemos una crisis. Y si esta nación no despierta, la justicia nos juzgara junto con la historia. We have a problem. We have a crisis. And if we do not respond, both justice and history will judge us.
Now, 68,000 unaccompanied children are expected by September, and close to 80,000 by December.
Rev. Salguero spoke about the images of the children at detention centers from McAllen, TX, to Tucson, AZ. "Children are sleeping on top of one another...There are 300 kids in one room, and one of them is in diapers, and the other one is a 17-year-old with a moustache. There are young girls, 5, 6,and 7, together with 16- and 17-year old young ladies who are pregnant because somewhere along the way before they reached the border of the United States, somebody raped them.
Tenemos un problem. There's a problem, and you're the answer.
The problem is that when there's vast hunger in a region, the children are the canaries in the coal mine. The most who are disproportionately and immediately impacted are the children.
We receive that call...there are 68,000 refugees of hunger and violence. If you think building more walls in world (is the answer), we don't understand Christianity. The cross is not a wall.
Read More from Bread for the World
Action: Contact your representative and tell him or her to support compassionate, comprehensive immigration reform.