The San Diego Convention Center, fitted with cots and not much else, is the temporary home of nearly 1,500 unaccompanied minors. The surge at the border, the highest in 20 years, is stressing the neglected U.S. migrant and refugee systems that were designed to deal humanely with refugees seeking asylum.
Many of the children in San Diego are arriving from Texas, but all the border states are being impacted. Federal authorities are partnering with local non-profits such as Catholic Charities, Jewish Family Services, and many others to provide basic services to the children, including administering to their spiritual needs.
San Diego’s Bishop Robert McElroy and Auxiliary Bishop Ramón Bejarano visited the convention center over Easter to meet the children, most of whom are around ten years old, and provide them with the Eucharist. Many staff members also received Communion.
“We had sent over rosaries earlier in the week because the children had asked for them,” explained Bishop McElroy. “They held them in their hands or wore them around their neck as they received the Sacrament.”
Bishop McElroy was impressed with the devotion of the children as well as the loneliness and fear they held within themselves.
“One girl, when she found out I was a bishop,” said Bishop McElroy, “asked if she could be confirmed.”
Bishop Bejarano also brought the Sacrament to children in the COVID-19 isolation area. Both bishops have already been vaccinated.
After the services, the children had nowhere else to go except back to their cots, said Bishop McElroy. Many of them knelt at their cots for a few minutes of prayer.
The U.S. Health and Human Services Agency (HHS) now has more than 14,000 minors in custody. Most are from Honduras, Guatemala, or El Salvador. HHS says most will be placed with responsible family members, but the system is extremely stressed.
“President Biden has inherited a chaotic border situation created by a decade of Congressional failures, four years of a President who coldly used the border as an instrument of political and ethnic division, and a long history of exploitation and economic deterioration in Central America,” Bishop McElroy told the Tablet, an international Catholic news outlet.
“It is President Biden’s responsibility to create and implement a system of fairness and order for those seeking refuge in our country, but this project will fail if the humanity and suffering of those at our gates is not the primary element propelling us at every stage.”
The above comes from an April 16 release from the California Catholic Conference.