The head of the U.S. bishops’ migration committee challenged U.S. President Obama and the leaders of Central America to respond to violence in that region in order to protect children who are being forced to flee. “Over the long-term, a strategy must be devised to address the violence and lack of opportunity in the countries of Central America,” said Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio Elizondo of Seattle, and “(s)pecific attention should be paid to helping at-risk youth remain safe and access opportunity at home.” “Instead of cooperating on intercepting them and sending them back to dangerous situations, the leaders should work together to protect them from those dangers, including providing them asylum in neighboring countries and in the United States,” he said in a July 24 statement. More than 52,000 unaccompanied minors have been apprehended in the U.S. this year, a number which has doubled since 2011. It is projected that by the end of the fiscal year, 90,000 unaccompanied minors will have arrived in the United States, fleeing ongoing violence in Central America. Bishop Elizondo urged the region’s leaders to address the ongoing violence and instability within Central America, in order to adequately examine the influx of unaccompanied minors to the U.S. Alluding to a July 25 meeting scheduled between President Obama and the presidents of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, the bishop said that discussion on the situation must address the “root causes of violence.” “The leaders should focus upon the protection of these children and families, as they are charged with as the heads of their nations,” he explained. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has stated opposition to the deportation of unaccompanied minors, without first giving them an immigration hearing. “Families, as well, should receive a fair hearing of their asylum claims,” said Bishop Elizondo. Rather than simply “send(ing) children back to harm,” he voiced hope that the United States will find a way to “humanely respond to this situation.”
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