Media CenterCRS Urges Support for Senate Supplemental Spending Bill to Address Unaccompanied Children Situation

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Catholic Relief Services Emphasizes Need to Protect Children and Provide Opportunity and Security in Home Countries

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) urges Congress to pass the Senate’s version of a supplemental spending bill addressing the needs of unaccompanied children escaping violence in Central America. CRS welcomes the Senate’s investment in tackling the economic, social and political factors compelling these children and their families to flee. Alarming provisions in the House version of the bill would weaken due process for Central American children, potentially returning them to dangerous or even deadly situations.

“The demands of justice for the unaccompanied children fleeing violence in Central America require us to ensure that each and every child has his or her day in court,” asserts Bill O’Keefe, vice president for Government Relations and Advocacy. Catholic Relief Services joins the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in calling for protection of the due process rights of unaccompanied children. The bishops have emphasized the moral and legal obligation to determine who among these children would be at risk of violence, trafficking or other abuse if returned to their home country.

The Senate bill also makes an important down payment on improving the root causes of this crisis. “Investments in job training, especially among youth, agricultural revitalization, and judicial strengthening will go a long way towards creating the environment in Central America in which children and their families can thrive,” stated Bill O’Keefe.

He continues, “Everyone on all sides of this debate agrees  that these children deserve protection and opportunity in their home countries so that they don’t have to risk the dangerous trek north. The sooner we scale up investments in these children, their families and their communities, the less likely they are to flee.”

Catholic Relief Services’ programs have made entrepreneurs and community builders of at-risk youth. “Youth have the power to change their lives and their neighborhoods. It is our job to help enable them to unleash that power,” testified Richard Jones, deputy regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean, before the Senate Homeland Security Committee on July 16, 2014.

Both the Senate and House versions of the bill include funding for repatriation and reintegration programming for unaccompanied youth, as requested by CRS. The legislation in the House requires funds to be pulled from elsewhere in Central America to address repatriation and reintegration.

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Alsy Acevedo
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Alsy Acevedo is a former communications officer for Catholic Relief Services. She was based in Baltimore, Maryland.More