Quantcast
Monday, Dec. 22, 2014

How religious leaders are responding to the immigration crisis

Compiled by Kelsey Dallas, Deseret News National Edition

Published: Wed, July 16 5:00 a.m. MDT

 From left, Raul Amador Sanchez, 7, from Georgia, Alexandra Diaz, 9, and her brother Andy Diaz, 7, both from Baltimore, Md., hold up signs as they join their parent during a news conference of immigrant families and childrens advocates responding to the President Barack Obamas response to the crisis of unaccompanied children and families illegally entering the US, Monday, July 7, 2014, on the steps of St. John's Church in Washington. A top Obama administration official says no one, not even children trying to escape violent countries, can illegally enter the United States without eventually facing deportation proceedings. But Homeland Security Sec Jeh Johnson basically acknowledged Sunday that such proceedings might be long delayed, and he said that coping with floods of unaccompanied minors crossing the border is a legal and humanitarian dilemma for the US. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

From left, Raul Amador Sanchez, 7, from Georgia, Alexandra Diaz, 9, and her brother Andy Diaz, 7, both from Baltimore, Md., hold up signs as they join their parent during a news conference of immigrant families and childrens advocates responding to the President Barack Obamas response to the crisis of unaccompanied children and families illegally entering the US, Monday, July 7, 2014, on the steps of St. John's Church in Washington. A top Obama administration official says no one, not even children trying to escape violent countries, can illegally enter the United States without eventually facing deportation proceedings. But Homeland Security Sec Jeh Johnson basically acknowledged Sunday that such proceedings might be long delayed, and he said that coping with floods of unaccompanied minors crossing the border is a legal and humanitarian dilemma for the US. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

(Pablo Martinez Monsivais, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Thousands of unaccompanied immigrant children currently await news of their fate from U.S. authorities, caught in the middle of what the White House has called an "urgent humanitarian situation." As President Barack Obama and other political leaders debate emergency funds, religious communities are reflecting on how to faithfully respond to this immigration crisis.

Churches and faith-based organizations are getting involved in the issue at several different levels, from meeting with politicians to turning their buildings into temporary shelters to simply offering prayers.

"As Christian leaders we have a Biblical and moral imperative to provide a pastoral and compassionate response even while we seek long-term solutions to the root causes of the crisis," explained a letter from a group of evangelical and Catholic leaders to Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson.

The letter requested permission for religious groups to offer humanitarian aid to the children, as they do during "natural disasters, prolonged famines or civil unrest."

Johnson also received a petition from a group of faith-based organizations whose work centers on immigration reform. The letter, which included signatures from 3,841 persons of faith, called upon Johnson, President Obama and Congress to "address the magnitude and urgency of the humanitarian crisis of migrant children."

Religion News Service reported that the petition's sponsors held a national teleconference on July 10 to discuss the need for Congress and the president to provide emergency funds. "We are asking President Obama, Congress and the Department of Homeland Security to do the right thing by providing funding for the care and due process of these migrant children," said one speaker, United Methodist Bishop Minerva Carcano, to RNS.

Faith leaders in Texas had the opportunity to meet with the president face-to-face during his visit last week, gathering alongside local officials to discuss potential solutions. "Our … focus is on the children," said one group member to The Christian Post.

Although politicians have yet to settle on an appropriate response, many religious communities are working to serve the children's immediate needs.

"Various faith groups and churches from across the religious spectrum are already offering robust services for the unaccompanied children, with everything from Baptist disaster relief services providing shelter … in Texas to individual Catholic churches in California harboring kids until they can find a suitable place to house them," ThinkProgress reported.

World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization, published a review of its various efforts, which include supporting the organizations offering shelter for the immigrant children. For Christians who are uncertain about how best to get involved, the organizations suggests prayer as a valuable starting point. World Vision's published prayers include a request for God to keep the unaccompanied children safe and to move politicians into action.

Email: kdallas@deseretnews.com Twitter: @kelsey_dallas

Recommended
1. Say No to BO
Mapleton, UT,
July 16, 2014

An article about churches and illegal aliens...and the DN doesn't even have anything to say about the LDS Church.

2. FatherOfFour
WEST VALLEY CITY, UT,
July 16, 2014

In a message delivered to the Mexico-Holy See Colloquium on Migration and Development on Monday, the pope drew attention to the migrant children who he said often undertake the dangerous border crossing into the US alone in order to escape violence in their home countries:

"This humanitarian emergency requires, as a first urgent measure, these children be welcomed and protected. These measures, however, will not be sufficient, unless they are accompanied by policies that inform people about the dangers of such a journey and, above all, that promote development in their countries of origin."

3. Shane333
Cedar Hills, UT,
July 16, 2014

I have no problem with being humane and kind. I think it is wonderful to humanely give the illegal immigrants a healthy sack lunch while kindly putting them on a bus to take them back to Mexico, Guatemala, etc. There should be no need for further processing beyond determining which bus to put them on.

4. dave4197
Redding, CA,
July 16, 2014

shane offers the epitome of inhumane treatment of people, it's a tragedy that opinions like his get printed. don't call your idea humane or kind, shane, it's as opposite as can be.

I'm with the Pope when he encourages us to "welcome and protect" these children. I'm with churches who open their facilities to house these refugees. In this way churches and other charitable organizations are often better than the gov't, quicker than the gov't, and cheaper than gov't "solutions". The gov't should reach out to churches and charities and partner with people who will open their homes to these refugees.

Of course a long term fix is to stop the causes of violence and poverty in their home countries, let's get to work helping those countries see straight.

Refugees like these need immediate help, not shouting and screaming blockers. There are short term and long term needs here. Let's be humane and compassionate and help people in need here and now.

5. gmlewis
Houston, TX,
July 16, 2014

Some people say that the highest priority is to shut down the porous border. Since the government appears powerless to do so, I suggest the next highest priority is to open the international gates along that border to these children. That way the children can be documented as they enter the U.S., and families already here know where to pick them up.

The humanitarian crisis is made worse by having them sneak across the Rio Grande River in dangerous circumstances, with no way to communicate with the families prepared to receive them.

Otherwise, we are simply giving the smugglers more business.