Jesuit Conference President Fr. Thomas Smolich S.J., far right, a member of the Jesuit Refugee Service/USA Board of Directors, participated in a discussion July 24 with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, left, and other Democratic congressional representatives on how the U.S. should respond to the humanitarian situation in Central America.
Mary Small, back right, JRS/USA Assistant Director for Policy and Shaina Aber, back left, Policy Director for the National Advocacy Office at the Jesuit Conference, also took part in the meeting.
On the day of the meeting, more than 300 faith-based organizations delivered a letter to President Barack Obama and Members of Congress urging protection, care and legal counsel for the thousands of Central American children who have fled escalating violence, conflict and exploitation in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
Aber said the Conference has been working on human rights issues and tracking issues of migration and violence in Central America, particularly in Honduras, for the past three years. They began to notice the migrants arriving at shelters run by the Jesuits in Mexico were getting younger. “They weren’t looking for economic opportunity but for safer lives outside of gang-ridden neighborhoods,” Aber said.
“The rhetoric we’ve been hearing recently from Congress and the administration has been disturbing,” said Aber. “They are talking about cutting down on protections the children are currently due under the law … at a time when we think Congress should be looking at what the driving factors are that are leading kids to have to flee their communities. They should be looking for ways in which we can protect these children in the tradition we have welcomed and protected other refugees in the past.”
The Jesuit Conference and Jesuit Refugee Service were two of the organizations that led the efforts in drafting the letter, which was signed by 40 national faith organizations and 269 regional and local groups from 42 states.
Read more on our website.