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August 21st, 2014

Unattended Children are Being Held in the Desert

Bishop Minerva Carcaño, the Los Angeles Area Resident Bishop of the United Methodist Church, is acting with urgency. Along with more than 100 other religious leaders and activists, she was arrested for civil disobedience at the White House for protesting the deportation of the unaccompanied children crossing our border after fleeing from the brutal violence and poverty of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. A few days earlier she visited Port Hueneme Naval Base in Oxnard, California for the second time and met some of the hundreds of migrant children temporarily housed there. Joining her this time were Bishop J. Jon Bruno of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, Dr. Robert Ross of the California Endowment, and Fred Ali of the Weingart Foundation.

About her first visit to Port Hueneme she said, “The naval base has been turned into a holding site for these children, and it was to capacity with 575 children and young people between the ages of 13 and 17, and they’ve all been through horrific experiences. Many of the girls have experienced sexual assaults, and some of them have been raped . . . If you ask them what the prayer in their heart is, they’ll tell you immediately, with a sense of faith, that indeed it’s going to happen-and their prayer is that God will give them life.”

Bishop Carcaño spoke to a rapt congregation at the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF)’s Samuel DeWitt Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry at CDF Haley Farm in mid-July about the humanitarian crisis of thousands of desperate children crossing our border. The details are haunting: An unaccompanied toddler being cared for by little girls sitting in a locked cell for 12 days. A grandmother with three little granddaughters who a gang had threatened to take if she didn’t pay over $20,000. These are stories from one point of the border at McAllen, Texas-just a few of the tens of thousands of children who have crossed the desert in this current migration wave, including nearly 60,000 unaccompanied children traveling alone.

These children are in many ways the latest innocent victims of the U.S. war on drugs. Even as the U.S. worked with Mexico and Colombia to close down the drug cartels and gangs there, the massive market for illegal drugs here in our nation has remained. To feed our illegal drug habit, the drug lords and vicious gangs have moved operations and created unprecedented levels of violence in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Now these essentially lawless countries have become some of the most dangerous places on the planet.  

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