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“Let the Children Come to Me”

26 Jun

immigrant children3 Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14

There has been a lot of press as of late speaking of the influx of children coming into the United States from Central America. Since 2009, there has been an a dramatic rise of unaccompanied children coming from Central America.  Why?

Some believe that they are coming here because they are looking for a better life and have heard that the U.S. is easier on children than adults.

Why would children risk crossing deserts, going hungry, risking the possibility of being trafficked, etc.?  Why would parents allow this?

The United Nations has been asking these same questions.  Brian Resnick of the National Journal questioned Leslie Velez , senior protection officer at the U.N. High Commission for Refugees.  “The normal migration patterns in this region have changed,” Ms. Velez stated. They are not coming for economic opportunity.  They are fleeing for their lives.”  The U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees surveyed 404 children from Mexico and Central America.  The report states that “no less than 58 percent of the 404 children interviewed were forcibly displaced” to a degree that warranted international protection. If the U.S. refuses these children, it could be in breach of U.S. conventions.  These are refugees no more or less than we are seeing in the Middle East. This time we are the receiving country.

Why are they fleeing for their lives?  In 2009, the democratically elected President of Honduras was overthrown by a military coup ( some of whom are graduates of the School of the Americas).  The U.S. has provided support ever since in the form of arms and support for the corrupt government that emerged after dubious elections in 2009 and 2013.

“Since 2008, the U.S. has spent over $800 million in security aid to Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador through ‘Central American Regional Security Initiative’ (CARSI) in addition to millions more in bilateral military and police aid to each country.” (SOA Watch 6/19/2014)

Violence in Honduras is so high that people are scared for their lives.  Children are being recruited by gangs and drug cartels in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.  They are given little choice because of their vulnerability.  Adult gang members and drug pushers feel that children provide them with safe cover.  These children  don’t want to be in gangs or to be involved with the drug cartels so they flee.  This is similar to the child soldiers we heard about in Uganda.

It is easy to think that children are coming to the United States from Central America for a better economic life.  It appears that, at least for 60% of them, they are just coming for a chance to live.

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious just came out with a statement on this.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have had several testimonies given to Congress.

You can also give testimony to your congressperson.  Let them know that the humanitarian approach to this is to treat the children as refugees and increase funding for immigrant services.



Celebration without Exploitation — human trafficking

14 Jul

by Sr. Dorothy Pagosa, SSJ-TOSF

Director of Social Justice

They call it human trafficking.  It is slavery. It is our responsibility as Franciscans, Christians, human beings to do what we can to end this horror.

Human trafficking always includes recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, or obtaining a person to be used for:

  1. Labor or services through force, fraud, or coercion resulting in involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery;
  2. Sexual exploitation (physical, visual, verbal, etc.) in exchange for anything of value through force, fraud, or coercion; or
  3. Sexual exploitation of any kind  involving jobs
  4.  a person who is under 18 years old.

(United Nations’ and United States’ official definition)

Unfortunately, human trafficking has been recognized to occur during major sporting events through prostitution and hotel and other services. The Olympics are about to begin in London later this month.

“The Franciscan Federation (of which the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Third Order of St. Francis is a member) has joined with Christian Brothers Investment Services, Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, the Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility, Fair Pensions, Franciscan Action Network and others in the fight to stop human trafficking at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games taking place in London from July 27 — August 12.” (Franciscan Federation Website

“We expect the IOC (International Olympic Committee)  going forward to incorporate clear guidelines on trafficking and slavery that include public reporting of results.  Our request is in line with the IOC’s Charter that includes support for environmental issues and sustainable development and with the requests made in our letters to companies,” said Rev. David Schilling, director of Human Rights, Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility.

Find more info at  Celebration Without Exploitation.

Is human trafficking a real problem?

  • In 2005, the Department of Justice reported there have been an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 sex slaves in the U.S. since 2001 (U.S. Department of Justice)
  • In 2009, a University of Pennsylvania study estimated 300,000 youth in the U.S were at risk of being sexually exploited for commercial uses.(National Center for Missing and Exploited Children)
  • 1.2 million children are being trafficked every year throughout the world; this is in addition to the millions already held captive. (UNICEF)
  • The total market value of illicit human trafficking is estimated to be in excess of $32 billion (UN)
Look for these and other signs of human trafficking:
  • Evidence of being controlled
  • Inability to move or leave jobs
  • Signs of physical abuse
  • Fear or depression
  • No forms of identification

If you suspect trafficking or want more information contact:

The National Human Trafficking Resource Center

888-373-7888 (toll free)


Additional information can be found at