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Bishops visit United States-Mexico border

SAN JUAN (CNS): “The children who are separated from their parents need to be reunited. That’s already begun and it’s certainly not finished and there may be complications, but it must be done and it’s urgent,” said Daniel Cardinal DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, the president of the United States (US) Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
 
In a two-day period, a group of bishops saw the faces of triumph and relief from migrants who had been recently released by immigration authorities at the US-Mexico border, but capped their journey to the border communities of McAllen-Brownsville with a more somber experience as they visited migrant children temporarily detained within the walls of a facility called Casa Padre, a converted Walmart superstore.
 
During a news conference on the last day of their visit on July 2, the bishops stressed the urgent need to do something to help the migrant children.
 
Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, the USCCB vice president, celebrated Mass in Spanish with about 250 children on what was once the loading dock of the superstore.
 
“It was, as you can imagine, very challenging to see the children by themselves,” the archbishop said during the news conference. “Obviously, when there are children at Mass, they are with their parents and families … but it was special to be with them and give them some hope.”
 
He said he spoke to them about the importance of helping one another.
 
Casa Padre gained notoriety earlier this year because it houses children separated from their families, as well as unaccompanied minors in a setting with murals and quotes of US presidents, including one of Donald Trump saying, “Sometimes by losing a battle you find a new way to win the war.”
 
The facility is run by Southwest Key Programmes, a nonprofit organisation that operates it under a federal contract. 
 
Cardinal DiNardo led the delegation which included Bishop Joseph Bambera of Scranton, Pennsylvania and Auxiliary Bishop Robert Brennan of Rockville Centre, New York.
 
Bishop Bambera said that the facility houses about 1,200 boys between the ages of 10 and 17, but noted that  although the care they receive seems to be appropriate—it’s clean, they have access to medical care, and schooling and recreational facilities—it was clear that “there was a sadness” manifested by the boys.
 
“We can provide the material environment to care for a person and it’s provided there, but that doesn’t nurture life. That takes the human interaction with the family or a caregiver,” he said.
 
Though many of the boys held there are considered unaccompanied minors, some were separated from a family member with whom they were travelling, the bishop explained. 
 
“Those boys bear clearly the burden of that” separation, he said.
 
Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, head of the local diocese, accompanied the delegation, which included a visit on the first day to a humanitarian centre operated by Catholic Charities. 
 
He said there’s a need to address the factors driving immigration from Central America, a place where migrants are fleeing a variety of social ills, including violence and economic instability.
 
The bishops along the border have frequent communication with their counterparts in Mexico and Central America on variety of topics, Bishop Flores said during the news conference, but the problems driving immigration to the US are complex.
 
The bishop said he has spoken with parents in Central America about the danger of the journey but recalled a conversation with mothers in places such as Honduras and Guatemala who have told him: “My son will be killed here, they will shoot him and he’s 16. What am I supposed to do?”

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