On Tuesday evening, when the first two families separated at the border were reunited in New York, I, along with a few other Catholic Charities staff welcomed them to the warmth and safety of one of our agencies in the Bronx. One was a dad from Guatemala, Adan, and his four-year-old son Juan. The other, Javier from Honduras with his son, William, also four. We ate a simple meal together in a family-like dining room. We prayed the Our Father together. One of our staff lent the dads her cell phone to contact their families back home to let them know they were safe and back together. Their rooms were readied. They were sparkling clean, and in each bedroom there were toys for the children and basic toiletries for the dads. The backyard was prepared so the children could play outside. (Yes, even in the Bronx you can find a safe backyard!) All this was done within a day’s notice by the dedicated staff who worked tirelessly to make this agency as home-like as possible. We purchased a few $50 gift cards so the families could go the local stores for basics. In the midst of this, our Catholic Charities attorney and social worker were on-hand making sure their paperwork was in order and that the families would comply with the terms of their release from detention to make their next week court appearances – one in Louisiana, the other in Kansas.
Adan, Javier, William and Juan will be on their way to other parts of the country in a day or two, reunited, heading where they would have been one or two months ago before they were torn apart by a recent federal policy decision. In the midst of all their trials, one thing they will know is Catholic Charities found “room in the inn” for them.
I write with very mixed feelings – anger, relief, satisfaction, anxiety, passion, commitment. The immigration crisis facing our nation remains, even as the recent egregious policy, the unnecessary separation of children from their parents, has been slightly abated. Numerous others pose needless and at times cruel challenges to immigrants and refugees. In our experience, these policies do not further the security of our country- in fact, they endanger it. Catholic Charities re-commits to our century- old mission of welcoming and integrating newcomers to our blessed country. The work continues long after media attention ends. As we have for decades, we will
call for and work for comprehensive immigration policy. We support securing our borders, and do not support illegal immigration. We believe in a fair and generous legal immigration system. And for those currently lacking the right papers, a fair way to earn them. We need this not only for immigrants themselves but for the best interests of our nation as a whole.
I need to thank many –
- Catholic Charities’ legal team that has provided individual consultations to each of the approximately 350 separated children who have been placed in New York during the past two months. (This is only small part of the help they have provided.)
- Catholic Charities’ agencies, Catholic Guardian Services and Lincoln Hall, who have provided safe, professional, and compassionate care to these separated children and to many other unaccompanied minors. These children have been in very good hands while in NY. (I also compliment all the childcare agencies in NY who also are providing good care to these children.)
- Catholic Charities’ social services staff in offices, residences, courts, etc. who adapt and respond to the changing needs of immigrants and refugees with professionalism and compassion.
- To those in the “back offices” who support the infrastructure that makes work on the frontlines possible.
- To our Boards and donors who provide the important oversight, encouragement and resources to do this work, and the flexibility to be present in moments of crises.
My feelings remain very mixed, but the dedication and goodness of so many helps to deal with some of the darkness.
Msgr. Kevin Sullivan