In a year when the flow of Central American families to the U.S. border has made headlines, Mennonite Central Committee is responding broadly.
MCC is meeting basic needs for those deported or detained, increasing awareness about the realities of migration and, in the U.S., urging compassion for families fleeing violence in their home countries.
“This is continuing our invitation to welcome the stranger, to open our hearts and to see the image of God in all who are coming and to receive them,” said Saulo Padilla, MCC U.S. immigration education coordinator.
The unprecedented number of families and children fleeing violence and poverty in Central America and arriving at the U.S. border has slowed.
But the MCC U.S. Washington Office notes that the Obama administration is opening new family detention centers and quickly deporting women and children, often back to the dangerous situations from which they fled.
Given that reality, “our response goes not just as far as the border, but it goes south to the other countries as well,” Padilla said.
Caring for children
The largest effort funded at this point is a $20,000 project with the Honduran Mennonite Social Action Committee, which will provide emergency food, shelter and counseling to 110 children and youth who have been deported back to Honduras from the U.S. and do not have family members awaiting them.
Sometimes children need care for a few days until relatives arrive from rural areas, but in other cases no family can be found and children need care for longer periods. The project, which runs through December, also provides medical assistance and clothing for 50 youth.
In Guatemala, MCC comforters, blankets and hygiene kits will help meet needs at a home for migrants run by Missionaries of Saint Charles Scalabrinians. MCC will provide $5,000 to purchase bedding, medicines and first aid supplies for migrants and cleaning supplies for the home, which provides temporary shelter for migrant men, women and children.
Risks and rewards
MCC also is supporting a $5,000 project through a long-time partner in El Salvador, New Dawn Association, to raise awareness in some 10 communities about the process of migrating to the United States.
In the communities where New Dawn works, there is not always good information about the risks versus rewards for children and families migrating north. The project, which runs through January, brings together community members through existing women’s and youth groups, as well as public forums, educational talks, film screenings and radio interviews to help families make informed decisions.
Meanwhile, in the U.S., the number of unaccompanied minors crossing the border is declining, but legal proceedings are accelerating for the tens of thousands of children who were detained and released to family or friend sponsors. That’s placing a severe strain on nonprofits and attorneys providing free or low-cost services.
MCC is providing $10,000 through the Cabrini Center in Houston and another $5,000 through the Florence Project in Phoenix, Ariz., to help cover costs associated with processing the cases of children and youth who were detained on immigration charges.