National Catholic Reporter

The Independent News Source

Growing number of unaccompanied minors entering U.S. causes concern

Seattle

While Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio L. Elizondo of Seattle was in El Salvador recently, an immigration-reform advocate shared his view on the topic that was the focus of the bishop's trip: the increase in unaccompanied minors making the often dangerous journey from Central America and Mexico into the United States.

"We need to address all immigration issues in general, but especially this," Jose Ortiz, a pastoral assistant at St. Charles Parish in Burlington, said in a telephone interview May 21 with Northwest Catholic online, a news site of the Seattle Archdiocese.

Ortiz said that just as with adult migrants, the minors take a chance, "to come here for a better life, to escape poverty." He said more needs to be done for Mexico and Central American countries to improve their economic conditions so that fewer people -- adults and youths -- seek to make that dangerous journey northward.

He told the story of a Mexican man, now 24, who at age 14 made the precarious trek with a group that did not include his parents. The man, Gabriel Juarez, now married and father of three, began his journey from southern Mexico into Arizona and up to Washington state, where he settled in Skagit County with his father and mother, who were already living there.

"The heat in Arizona was so hot that it made his socks stick to his skin," Ortiz said. "My mother took him to the hospital (Skagit Valley Hospital), to the emergency room; they had to surgically remove his socks from his feet."

NCR-issue-christmas-icon.jpgGive a Christmas gift that lasts all year. Give the gift of NCR!

Ortiz said Juarez, who attends Mass at St. Charles and remains an undocumented immigrant, worked the berry fields in the Skagit Valley, but that he now works in construction.

Juarez, in a telephone interview, later spoke to the Northwest Catholic with some reluctance, but offered some comments; he said the group with which he traveled included a male cousin who was in his late 20s at the time -- his only relative in the group. He said the two-week trip began by car, then on foot in the Arizona heat, and later by bus into Washington state.

"My parents were here, and they wanted me to come," said Juarez, noting that he missed his father and mother, not having seen them for three years. In the years that followed, his three sisters came but have since returned to Mexico.

"Es muy peligroso (It is a very dangerous)," Juarez said of the journey that he and so many others have made. He said he and his family were thankful for assistance they have received from St. Charles Parish -- food, clothing and household essentials. And he noted they remain grateful for the ongoing spiritual support.

Elizondo made the trip to El Salvador trip May 19-22 as chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Migration. He went with Bishop Anthony B. Taylor of Little Rock, Arkansas, a member of the committee.

"It is clear that violence perpetrated by gangs and organized crime in parts of Central America is a contributing factor to the large number of children fleeing," Elizondo said in a statement released by the USCCB.

"Steps must be taken to protect these children and to ensure their well-being in their communities." The bishop noted that this is not only an immigration issue, "but also one that touches upon foreign policy and assisting these countries to protect their citizens, especially the most vulnerable."

[Machado writes for Northwest Catholic online, a news site of the Seattle Archdiocese.]

NCR Comment code: (Comments can be found below)

Before you can post a comment, you must verify your email address at Disqus.com/verify.
Comments from unverified email addresses will be deleted.

  • Be respectful. Do not attack the writer. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the original idea will be deleted. NCR reserves the right to close comment threads when discussions are no longer productive.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report abuse" button. Once a comment has been flagged, an NCR staff member will investigate.

For more detailed guidelines, visit our User Guidelines page.

For help on how to post a comment, visit our reference page.

 

Friends of NCR 300x80 web ad.jpg

NCR Email Alerts

 

In This Issue

December 5-18, 2014

12-5-2014.jpg

Not all of our content is online. Subscribe to receive all the news and features you won't find anywhere else.