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Faith Communities Respond to Migrant Child Crisis

By July 2014, there were more than 50,000 unaccompanied minors in the U.S. who had come across the southern border and were awaiting status processing. For faith communities that want to help the children, this crisis is atypical, according to Kevin Eckstrom, editor-in-chief of Religion News Service. In a 2 1/2-minute interview conducted by program anchor Bob Abernethy for Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, a source for cutting-edge news reporting and analysis at the intersection of faith and society, Eckstrom noted that this crisis is “not like your typical disaster where churches show up with chainsaws or heavy loading equipment or something,” because in this case “the government is actually in charge of these people, and so government rules apply.” You “can’t just show up and say, ‘Here’s a box of toys for kids,’” he said, adding, “People basically have to get in line to fill out applications and go through a vetting process” to make sure they’re actually equipped to be able to help orphan immigrant children, especially with their long-term needs. In the meanwhile, the children are stuck in a system that could take up to a year to work itself through. Then, those that are granted permission to stay have to be integrated into local communities, where a whole other set of concerns arises, including zoning regulations, budgets and taxes and providing and paying for educational and social support resources.

Despite those challenges, faith communities are stepping up. In a related eight-minute news video prepared by correspondent Saul Gonzales, John Andrews, a spokesperson for the Catholic Diocese of San Bernardino County, California, said the diocese has opened every available building on church grounds to provide temporary shelter and aid while migrants are in transition. “This is what our Catholic faith calls us to do,” he said, “to come to the aid of those who are desperately in need of our help. It’s written all over the Scriptures.” However, the perspective of the faith community is diverse and complex. In a third, three-minute news video, program anchor Bob Abernethy and managing editor Kim Lawton explore the religious community’s diverse responses to the immigration crisis. Also see our feature article on how faith communities provide a safety net for people in need, often in partnership with the government, titled “Congregations and Social Service.”

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