By Ricardo Moreno
It is one thing to hear the media reports, and another thing to witness what is happening with the unaccompanied children arriving from Central America. I recently visited the city of Murrieta, California, where a Border Patrol station was processing children who had arrived on buses from the Rio Grande Valley, where they crossed into the United States. Regardless of the politics of the issue, it was heartbreaking to witness the hate and visceral reactions of some individuals and groups. I saw a group of 50 people holding signs saying, “We don’t want diseases” and, “Stop the invasion.” This was right after two buses brought refugee children from Texas to Murrieta.
It made me question people’s hearts and humanity. I could not understand such hatred toward children. Children are the most vulnerable people. They did not choose where they were born, their neighborhoods, or their families. No matter where someone is on the political spectrum, how can they demonstrate this level of hate toward children?
These are children who are frightened. Their ages range from two years old to seventeen years old and everything in between. As a father, I cannot imagine my 14-year-old son or my 10-year-old daughter making the trip from Guatemala or El Salvador. But the reality is that this is not new. For many, as with the new child migrants, America represents an escape from hunger, poverty, and violence.
Contrary to the hateful responses that we see in the media, many churches have responded with compassion and care for these child migrants. Here in Los Angeles, Roman Catholic churches were the first to respond. The Bishop of the Diocese of San Bernardino publicly asked his parishioners to welcome the children. In my own neighborhood, the Saint Joseph Catholic Church opened its doors to host 56 children. They made sure that these children have access to food, clothes, beds, and showers. Two days later, the United Methodist Church and the Episcopal Church took a really active role. Now many churches are also responding.
As we respond to the needs of child migrants, I am reminded of the very first victory we achieved as Bread for the World. In 1975, we convinced Congress to pass a historic resolution saying that every person has a right to food, even migrant children. We need to treat today’s migrant children with love and compassion. They are children of God, God’s own creation. Jesus said, “Let the children come to me.” May we work together with our brothers and sisters to meet our goals of writing hunger into history.
Ricardo Moreno is Bread for the World’s associate for Latino relations.
Photo: Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World