The Los Angeles City Council unanimously passed a resolution Aug. 5 urging the Obama Administration and the Department of Homeland security to ensure the humane treatment of unaccompanied minors who have fled their home countries in Central America.
The council voted 13-0, calling on the federal government to extend the necessary level of protections” for the children that “seek refuge in the United States.” Those protections include: humanitarian relief, advocacy, legal support, expeditious reunification with families and asylum consideration.
Councilmembers Gil Cedillo, Mitch O’Farrell, Nury Martinez and Curren Price announced a citywide resolution last week.
The council also opposed any changes to the 2008 William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Reauthorization Act, which combats human trafficking in a variety of ways.
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles “pledges its continued support to work with city and local officials to find constructive solutions to the challenges posed by immigration and other issues we face in our communities,” said Andrew Rivas, government and community relations director for the archdiocese.
Rivas hopes other cities will follow the example set in L.A.
In recent months, an estimated 50,000 children have entered to Unites States by unauthorized means. The majority of them arrive without their parents from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.
“It is unfortunate that the illusion and mirage that the U.S. is the best place for all of the children from Honduras, when it is a false and empty promise to say that arriving there they will have free education, health care, food, and clothing,” Central American Bishop Romulo Emiliani Sanchez told the Honduran newspaper La Tribuna. The bishop is an auxiliary in the Diocese of San Pedro Sula in Honduras.
“There are organized criminals who are charged with creating illusions and mirages, saying that our children are going to be better off there than here,” Bishop Emiliani said. “They have tricked thousands of parents.”
Jill Marie Gerschutz-Bell, a legislative affairs specialist in Catholic Relief Services’ D.C. Office, said the situation is a “refugee crisis” due to “violence, insecurity and displacement in Central America and Mexico.”‚Ä®‚Ä®
“The gangs which are terrorizing young people and their families here initially got their start on the streets of Los Angeles,” she said. U.S. deportation of young people to Central America in the 1990s helped the gangs “flourish” due to the lack of jobs and easy access to weapons in the receiving countries.‚Ä®‚Ä®
“Today Honduras and El Salvador are among the most violent countries in the world, and parents are willing to do whatever it takes to bring their kids to safety,” Gerschutz-Bell said.
San Pedro Sula, Honduras’ second largest city, has in recent years been called the murder capital of the world. Drug trafficking and gang violence led to 1,218 homicides in the city in 2012. That’s a rate of 169 per 100,000 people. By comparison, the same year, New Orleans, considered the most violent city in the U.S., had a murder rate of 53 per 100,000 people.
Catholic News Agency contributed to this story.