Update: Catholic organizations playing role in reunification of children

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IMAGE: CNS photo/Carlos Barria, Reuters

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON
(CNS) — Some of migrant children under age 5 separated from their families by
the government were reunited with loved ones July 9 with help from Catholic
organizations.

About
two dozen families in all were brought back together on that date with help
from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services,
Catholic Charities USA and a network of other agencies from around the
country.

In
all, the Catholic agencies will help reunite 55 families by mid-July and provide
short-term care, such as food and shelter, said Bill Canny, executive director
of MRS.

“What
we’re trying to do is give people who have had a dose of bad, we’re trying to
give them a dose of good,” said Canny in a July 12 interview with Catholic News
Service. 

“Protection
of families is a foundational element of Catholic social teaching and this moment
calls on all people of goodwill to lend a hand to reunite these children with
their parents,” said a joint
statement issued the same day by MRS and Catholic Charities USA.

The
children and families were earlier separated by a policy implemented by the
Trump administration at the U.S.-Mexico border, seeking to deter illegal border
crossings. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in May that people risking improper
entry would be subject to having their children taken away, if caught.

The
Catholic Church, along with much of the country, condemned the policy and has
been advocating for the families’ reunification. After much public outcry and widespread
condemnation of the family separation policy, President Donald Trump signed an
executive order June 20 saying families would no longer be separated but may be
detained together during the process of prosecution and deportation at the
border.

The
U.S. bishops have expressed concerns with that possibility, asking for
alternatives to detention but seemed intent on lessening the damage already
done.

Trump administration
officials said that 2,342 children had been separated from 2,206 parents at the
U.S.-Mexico border between May 5 and June 9 as part of the previous policy.

The administration was
given until July 10 to reunite children under 5 with their families, but
administration officials had said July 9 that they would not be able to meet that
deadline. The administration has until July 26 to reunite all of the more than
2,000 children who have been separated from parents.

Canny said the
organizations are trying to raise funds for the effort and anyone wanting to
help can donate to Catholic Charities USA, www.catholiccharitiesusa.org.

The families of children under 5 that the Catholic organizations
helped were reunited at government facilities and then transferred into the
care of Catholic Charities organizations around the country, as well as the
Annunciation House in the El Paso, Texas/Juarez, Mexico, border region.

They will be assisted with follow-up care for two months as
many will leave the facilities and head toward a destination with family or a
sponsor somewhere in the U.S.

Canny said the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
as well as the Office of Refugee Resettlement reached out to the Catholic
organizations, as well as the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service in early
July to help with the reunifications.

“They know we are able to tap into a vast Catholic network across
the country, which proves valuable for humanitarian and disaster response,” he said.

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