“More than 52,000 minors traveling without their parents have been caught crossing the southwest border illegally since October, including 9,000 in May alone, a record,” according to a June 25 story in the New York Times, many of them from Central Americans countries.
Why would parents take such risks? Why would they put them in the hands of smugglers who will dump them onto a raft to cross to a desert where they’ll be met with snakes, thorny bushes and brutal heat? Where there is little to no guarantee that they won’t be picked up by someone who won’t try to take advantage of them? Where, if they’re lucky, they’ll be picked up by the Border Patrol and detained in a cage with hundreds of other children for who-knows how long?
Are these children refugees? No government has given them that term yet, but you have to believe that the children are fleeing a future that’s even more bleak than the one they might face as illegal migrants. Would you put your child in a van with a stranger to take them to another country without some reason to believe they’ll have a chance at a better life? Let’s not focus on the politics and policies for a minute to think about how desperate a parent would have to be to do this?
How can you help? Inquiries with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services lead to this statement: “In response to this humanitarian effort, members of the public have expressed interest in donating to help unaccompanied children that recently have entered the United States from Central America. The federal agencies supporting these facilities are unable to accept donations or volunteers to assist the unaccompanied children program.”
That being said, GivingCity has heard of at least one nonprofit organization aiding these children, Catholic Charities of Dallas. They are currently accepting monetary donations, seeking attorney volunteers and other types of volunteers. The Catholic Charities of Central Texas likely will aid these unaccompanied children, too.
Further… now is the time to consider a startling fact: Hundreds of refugees from all over the world flee to Austin every year. They come from Iraq, Iran, Central American countries, African nations. They come as families, as young adults as couples. And they come here without jobs, a place to live, an understanding of the language, of our currency, of how to get a job. In fact, the only thing they know is that they cannot go back.
You can help refugees right here in Austin.
A little background: Every year, the President and Congress determine the total number of refugees the U.S. will accept each year, and up to 70,000 refugees will be allowed in 2014. Texas resettles more refugees than any other state and more than 1,000 of them will resettle in Austin. In fact, Austin ranks third in the state for refugee resettlement.
Caritas, an Austin nonprofit celebrating 50 years in 2014, resettled more than 700 of those last year through its Refugee Resettlement program. Caritas does everything from picking them up from the airport to helping them with transportation, food, school enrollment, benefits assistance healthcare access, and job readiness and employer outreach. But they cannot do this without dozens of volunteers like you.
HOW YOU CAN HELP SUPPORT REFUGEES THROUGH CARITAS
- Volunteer with apartment set-up, transportation to appointments, teaching new skills like grocery shopping and using public transportation.
- Host a food drive for specific food or kitchen items (rice cookers are always in high demand)
- Donate grocery or superstore gift cards
- Advocate for refugees and volunteering with refugees
You must be 18-years-old to volunteer and go through training, but you’re only required to volunteer 8-10 hours a month on a flexible schedule. Learn more about volunteering with refugees here.
We may not be able to help the children who make it to the safety of Border Patrol, but there are hundreds of children and families who make it here to Austin every year. You’ll never appreciate your country more – or understand the hell people go through to get here – than when you’re working with these families. Aren’t we so lucky to have been born here?