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Border Faith Leaders, Police Chief Respond to Increase in Unaccompanied Migrant Children, Asylum-Seekers


A recording of today’s webinar is available here.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Border faith leaders, a border police chief and a policy expert spoke of the need for a compassionate response to unaccompanied children and asylum-seekers at the border during a press conference this morning.

Also today, the Forum published a new explainer on migrant arrivals at the U.S.-Mexico border. The post breaks down why apprehensions are increasing, the use of Title 42 expulsions and the treatment of arriving unaccompanied minors, among other issues.

The following are quotes from speakers on today’s press conference:

Dona Abbott, Senior Advisor, Global, Refugee and Immigrant Services, Bethany Christian Services:
“Reinstating the Central American Minors Program is key to helping parents reunite with their children without the child needing to take a dangerous journey. I would urge the administration to meet with voluntary agencies regarding the immediate implementation of this program in a way that assures expedited reunification while assuring the child’s safety. Additionally, adding child protection officers at the border to do best interest determinations can help assure that children are not separated from accompanying caregivers unnecessarily and is more likely to help with identifying those children in need of immediate protection in a temporary foster home or small child-friendly shelter. I would also call on communities of faith to not only welcome these new families into their communities but to consider welcoming an unaccompanied child into their home for a short period of time until their family can be identified, and the child reunified.”

Sami DiPasquale, Executive Director, Abara, El Paso, Texas:
“It’s important to realize that the movement of people back and forth along the border is an integral part of the fabric of our El Paso-Juárez community. It’s beautiful, it’s rich, and sometimes, like today, it’s mixed with pain and suffering. Our faith communities along the border have been responding to shifting situations in the borderlands and supporting migrants for decades, or even centuries. The specifics of what brings people to the border shift over time, but adjusting to meet the needs of a community, and to meet the needs of those who are arriving in a community, is a vital part of the heartbeat of most faith communities, including those in El Paso. We feel privileged to be part of a community offering hospitality to some of the most vulnerable. We welcome those seeking to support the effort.”

Andy Harvey, Police Chief, Pharr, Texas:
“From a law enforcement perspective, from a police chief perspective, what we want is safe communities. And we want to help people where they are. This is a real issue…  When it comes to policing it’s not about politics, this is about people.”

Sister Norma Pimentel, Executive Director, Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley:
“We are a community here at the border, responding to the people that we’re seeing here in our community. Really it’s amazing the response that we do together with law enforcement, with Border Patrol, with the city governments in how to make sure that we are all safe, being that we are in a pandemic and COVID is a priority — to address it correctly. … For [families formerly in Matamoros] to be welcomed by the United States … I feel this is a triumph to humanity because we have responded in a very humane, caring way for these families and continue to do so. This administration is really establishing a process that is orderly and safe for everybody, in collaboration with so many entities both in Mexico and the United States.”

Jacinta Ma, Vice President of Policy and Advocacy, National Immigration Forum:
“To manage our border, the Biden administration needs to continue to establish the infrastructure, logistics and processes that keep Americans safe and treat migrants with dignity. A nation as strong as ours can and must respond to vulnerable children and families with compassion. Communities along the border, including faith communities, are already doing so.”


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