Border crossing response: not a choice

(Photo courtesy World Renew)

(Photo courtesy World Renew)

USA (WRN) — The humanitarian crisis at the U.S.- Mexico border calls out for a response of justice and mercy from those who serve Christ–not only for the more than 57,000 children who are already in U.S. federal detention, but also among communities in Latin America.

For followers of Jesus Christ, the plight of these children and their families calls for action that stems from “a framework of compassion and maintains current laws around due process for anyone entering the country illegally,” says World Renew U.S. Director Andrew Ryskamp.

The U.S. government had talked about taking action regarding the crisis of the children at the border, but Congress recently adjourned before coming to a consensus and left for their summer break with many issues unresolved, according to news reports.

According to the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, the number of children fleeing their homes in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras has doubled since last year. And the number of families from these countries who have arrived in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and California this year is five times higher than it was in in 2013.

Root issues of poverty, hunger, and violence in Latin America play a key role in why the children are leaving, making it imperative that strong development support be made available in their home countries, Ryskamp says.

Ryskamp says World Renew’s community development programs address these root causes of extreme poverty and hunger in 23 of the world’s developing countries in agriculture, health, adult literacy, income earning, and spiritual and leadership development.

World Renew’s Latin America Team Leader Leanne Geisterfer says, “World Renew works through local Christian partners in Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic to improve livelihoods and create more secure communities so people don’t feel the need to leave–and families can stay intact.

“World Renew’s four partners in Honduras and the Association for a More Just Society (AJS) address these issues by identifying minors who are most at risk, counseling and training entire families in vocational and relational skills, promoting civic involvement, and taking action in systemic issues like corruption.”

World Renew is also affiliated with Church World Service, which is assisting 1,000 deported children and adolescents in San Pedro Sula, Honduras–the city with the highest murder rate in the world.

At a press conference that drew together ecumenical leaders on Wednesday, July 23, Ryskamp said, “World Renew works in places like Honduras to help build economic and social stability. When we hear leaders in Washington D.C. claim to address the ‘root causes’ of these fleeing children, but their ‘root causes’ don’t include violence, oppression, and poverty, we are concerned.

“If we want the kids to stay in their countries–as they surely wish to do, then the U.S. government should address the real reason they’re leaving: If they stay home, they are not sure they will survive.”

Following are a few things people can do to address this issue.

Here is prayer the CRC has suggested that people pray, especially in relation to children being detained at the border.

The CRC has also made available the Church Between Borders curriculum for small groups, adult ed classes, and young adults. The 4-session program helps participants get a better understanding of the U.S. immigration system and become better equipped to welcome strangers in our midst.

An Advocacy Toolkit is also available for those who want to make their voice heard on immigration in the U.S.