Unaccompanied Migrant Children – how St. Martin’s people can help

A number of people have asked about what can be done to assist the unaccompanied Immigrant Children coming to our country and closer to home, being sent to Dallas. Below is the latest information. I would very much like to have a contact person for our parish. I will be out of town for the next 10 days. It is during this time when the children are expected to arrive. Please let me know if you are interested in being our parish’s point person for this important ministry. Here is what we have so far:

Unaccompanied Immigrant Children Crisis – The Situation

94,000 unaccompanied children are expected to enter Texas by the end of the year, most coming from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador to escape extreme violence, trafficking, and exploitation. The majority will eventually return to their home countries, but first a safe environment will have to be created there.
 Up to 2,000 children are expected to begin arriving at three Dallas-area shelters later this month. Each child will only stay for around a month while their case is being reviewed.
 It appears that Dallas will be a new model of faith-based collaboration with the government as President Obama wrote that into the contract.

We must wait for the government to approve and equip the three proposed sites for housing the children in Dallas, AND for the contractor to be designated before the children will be sent here.

We then must also wait for the contractor to outline needs, and indicate how volunteers from the faith communities might be involved.

UNITE will inform us of those needs and opportunities when information becomes available. Volunteers cannot be utilized at this point.

Needs identified at this time:

  • Lawyers, particularly those with experience in immigration issues, will be needed to work pro-bono.
  • Bilingual volunteers will be needed to be interpreters. Contact Eileen O’Malley (eomalley@ccdallas.org) at Catholic Charities now to volunteer.
  • Foster parents will be needed at a future date (3-6 months out).

I also received information about activities taking place in the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas… providing help to the unaccompanied children is not possible at this time due to government restrictions. They are able to assist families with at least one adult with the children, providing hygiene kits and backpacks.

How You Can Help Now

The one thing that we can do, and do immediately and with great passion, is offer our prayers for the children, the border agents and all those working to provide assistance and programs to provide for the unaccompanied immigrant children.

Orientation meetings are currently being planned including one coordinated by Children at Risk on July 29.

Foster Families – Roughly 15,000 children are expected to be placed with American foster families through the existing Unaccompanied Refugee Minor Program which includes an expedited screening process. For more information or to apply, visit the Lutheran Immigration & Refugee Services or the US Conference of Catholic Bishops pages. Within the next 2 weeks we expect there to be information meetings for interested families.

Food and Laundry – Email marla.bearden@texasbaptists.org to be added to a volunteer waiting list. It is not known at this time exactly what volunteers will be needed for other than food and laundry services. Expect  information meetings to be set up within 2 weeks for volunteers interested in serving the children while they’re in the shelters.

You Can Donate

It will take a lot of effort to meet the needs of migrant refugee children, and in addition to the ways I have described for you to connect and help,  it will take money. If you would like to donate to St. Martin-in-the-Fields’ efforts to meet the needs of migrant children, please put “Immigrant Children” in the memo line of your check. We are working to add that as a donation category for to our online credit card contributions, too.

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