After twenty-eight days away from this desk I returned this past Sunday with pleasant memories and not too many tasks sitting in front of me. Arthritis is beginning to take its toll on me, in the feet, hands, knees, elbows, etc. and I face a schedule for the coming year that in most ways is even more challenging than this last year which I found very challenging. Everyone, uniformly and universally, counsels me to slow down, take it easy, and then presents me with some event where my presence is absolutely necessary so for me, like for many others of you, the proverbial “road to hell is paved with good intentions.” We’ll see. But what I wish to reflect upon in this blog entry is far more difficult and sadder than anything I can say about myself, the diocese, or even the Church.
I have asked our Catholic Charities to consult with Migration and Refugee Services division of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to see how many of the unaccompanied children mostly from Guatemala and Honduras we might be able to temporarily resettle. As you know, parents of those two countries are doing everything they can to send their children to the United States to escape possible death, torture and abuse in their homes towns and cities. Gang violence is so bad in those situations that even if the children do escape but are captured and sent back, they are highly subject to even greater risk of death just for having attempted to escape. The media has done a very good job of portraying the evil at home and critics of US immigration policy have done a very bad job of painting a true picture of the situation. No parent wants to turn their children at an outrageous price over to a suspect entrepreneur who promises to deliver the children through Mexico and across the US border. But their fear for their children’s lives leaves them little other options. It is a replay of “Operation Pedro Pan” when Cuban parents entrusted their children to a unsure future in the US as Fidel Castro began his reign in their country but a major difference between then and this situation is that the Cuban parents knew there was a program or people on the receiving end who would care for their kids until family reunification was possible. It is also a replay in miniature of the countless tens of thousands of mostly Catholic Vietnamese families who braved the dangerous waters of the South China Sea to escape the North Vietnamese communists taking over the South after we brought the flag out and surrendered. In that instance, the resettlement was a reflection of our national guilt and shame.
What is happening now along the border with Mexico is not the same as the steady flow of “illegal immigrants” which has led to the national discussion of immigration policy for which the majority of the House of Representatives has no heart. The “humanitarian quotient” of the unaccompanied minors we see coming our way cries out to heaven for a humanitarian and not a politically timed or motivated response. It is something our Church has responded to in the past, something which we know how to do, and something which we should be doing. If those kids need our help, I am ready to ask everyone in this diocese who possibly can to help me give them a temporary home which will be safe, secure, and free of shame. Shame on those who would kill, maim and torture children and their parents in their home land simply in the name and as a form of gang violence and shame on their own government for allowing it to happen. Shame on those elected representatives in our country who for seemingly reasons of political gamesmanship and an upcoming election turn a deaf ear to the cries of these kids. And shame on us if we stand all the day idle. Their parents want them back but until then, will we be willing to be the hands of a compassionate and loving Lord?
As that song from LES MISERABLES goes, “will you join in this crusade?”