This is a Humanitarian Crisis
Poverty and violence are push factors that have caused a surge in child migration to the U.S. from countries like Guatemala, which has the highest child malnutrition rate in the Western Hemisphere. U.S. food aid assistance help Catarina Pascual Jiménez find a path out of hunger. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World).
By Eric Mitchell
Emilio is a 16-year-old boy from Honduras.
A fifth grade dropout, Emilio has no job and often goes hungry. "When we were hungry, we endured it ... Some days, you would eat. Other days, you wouldn't," he says.
A smuggler promised to help Emilio get into the United States. However, during the journey, he and two companions were sold to a man who locked them inside a house in Guatemala, threatening to kill them unless their families each paid $2,000. The journey is dangerous, and some children die on the way, but conditions in his home country are so desperate that Emilio says he will try again.
Emilio is one of tens of thousands of children from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador attempting to flee violence and extreme poverty. We as people of faith must act to address the root causes of this humanitarian crisis.
There are two things you can do right now to help.
- Pray. Pray for these children, their parents, and the often poor and violence-stricken communities they have left behind. And pray for the children who still remain in Central America, many of whom, like Emilio, go without enough food for days on end. You can use these prayers or your own.
- Call (800-826-3688) or email your U.S. representative and your U.S. senators! Simply say: I urge you to respond to the surge of unaccompanied children crossing the border. Please pass legislation that addresses the conditions of poverty, hunger, and violence in Central America that are forcing them to leave.
The Bible tells us that Jesus has a special concern for children who belong to the kingdom of God (Mark 10:14). Christians must speak up for children like Emilio.
Tens of thousands of unaccompanied children are crossing the border, fleeing unspeakable conditions in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Since October, over 52,000 unaccompanied children have crossed our borders. By year’s end, we are expecting that number to grow to between 70,000 and 90,000.
Emilio’s story isn’t unique, considering what he is fleeing. More than half of the citizens of Honduras live on less than $4 a day, and violence is rampant.
While the debate raging in Washington focuses on detention centers and how fast the government can send these children back, few members of Congress are asking: What are we sending these children back to? Solutions to this crisis must look beyond the border.
If we support successful development programs in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, we can help ensure children like Emilio will not have to risk their lives to escape poverty and hunger.
The situation is urgent. Please call (800-826-3688) or email now.
Eric Mitchell is the director of government relations at Bread for the World.
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