Unaccompanied child refugees bold and resolute

Donald Trump’s promise to build a wall across all of the southern border is a distraction says Fr Tony O’Connor.

Fr Tony is an expatriate New Zealand priest working in the parish of San Filipe de Jesus in a town on the border between Texas and Mexico.

“This distracts from what is actually going on the border, especially with unaccompanied child refugees from the central American countries of Guatemala, Salvador and Honduras, boys and girls,” says Fr Tony.

In recent years more than a hundred thousand unaccompanied child refugees have been received and housed in refugee centers in the United States.

The children arrive at the border escaping violence and poverty in their own countries.

“Here in the Rio Grande Valley there are some 14 refuge centers run by non-governmental non profit organizations,” says Fr Tony.

The centres are not detention centres. The children are well cared for.

Fr Tony says that some years ago president of one political party decreed that unaccompanied child refugees, all in high physical and moral risk, must be received when they present themselves at the US border after having traversed Mexico and other border to get there.

“Today it is the president of the other political party who quietly supports the continuance of this policy.”

The children stay in the refugee centres while family members living in the US are contacted. Their situation is processed before they are allowed to travel to these approved family members throughout the USA.

After this, their process continues and few are deported.

“For this the USA can be proud,” Fr Tony says.

“I visit six of the centres for religious services: masses and confession. Confession is a great moment for the youth to commit themselves to life, repent of their past and commit to the future.”

“They are truly great kids. They have been through much but are humbly strong and in their simplicity boldly resolute.”

Kids from three refuge centers come to San Filipe de Jesus for Sunday mass.

“People love them,”

“Lat year some 120 came for Christmas cheer, pizza, games and intermingling with our youth.”

Recently they stayed after mass for a Central American meal which the parish mums prepared after swatting up Central American recipes.

“They were so excited and had double helpings many of them.”

The bishop, Daniel Flores, a very socially conscious man came to celebrate the mass and joined in the fun and fare.


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