1. Thousands of undocumented children and families have arrived at the U.S. border in recent months, sparking anti-immigration protests. But activists, churches, and ordinary people have also taken to the streets, showing their support for the migrants.
2. In California, Methodist Bishop Minerva Carcaño visited a detention facility in Ventura County in July, where over 500 unaccompanied children are being held.
In a recent video she shared her message for the children as a faith leader.
3. “I’d say welcome, bienvenido, mijito, mijita, we love you,” she said. “We’re glad that you’re here. We hate the fact that you’re suffering, but we stand with you and we’re going to struggle with you and we’re going to make sure that you’re alright.”
“These are children, these are God’s children and therefore they are our children,” she concluded.
4. Family-to-Family, a non-profit national poverty and hunger relief organization, is sending essentials like toothpaste and clothing, along with comfort items like Spanish-language books, blankets and stuffed animals to Texas humanitarian organizations.
5. Because needs are changing daily, monetary donations allow Family-to-Family flexibility in what it sends to organizations providing shelter to the children.
6. “Faced with more than 50 thousand children stranded on our southern border, we have the opportunity to respond as America has for centuries: by opening our hearts and showing compassion to those in need,” director and founder Pam Koner said in a release.
7. In Los Angeles, seven young people from the age of 15 to 22 took part in a week-long fast starting July 21 in support of the children.
8. “These are children we are talking about,” said Edgar Gonzalez, 22, according to the SEIU release. “Someone needs to stand up for them.”
9. “When I see the children suffering and being mistreated at the border, I think about my mom who came here from Honduras when she was 20,” Janio Alvarado, a 15-year-old faster said.
10. The fasters only drank water during the week.
11. They slept at the nearby La Plaza United Methodist Church.
12. One of the fasters knew the plight of the some of the children because, after her father was killed by gang members, she fled Guatemala at the age of 7 with her sister.
“My heart broke hearing stories on the news of all the children forced to leave their country because they did not feel safe,” Yamilex Rustrian said. “I understand how scared they must be because 12 years ago, I was one of them.”
13. In early July, members of United We Dream (UWD), a national immigrant rights organization, visited the Sacred Heart migrant shelter in McAllen, Texas.
14. The shelter is affiliated with Catholic Charities. While the children are not part of the current crop of unaccompanied minors, UWD felt it was necessary to visit children in similar circumstances.
The recently arrived children and families can have a meal, shower, and get ready to reunite with relatives who are already established in the U.S.
15. At the Sacred Heart, volunteers help children and families find their way to their relatives.
16. The shelter provides clothes for the children…
The sign reads, in Spanish, “Clothes for boys aged 5 to 7.”
17. …diapers and toiletries…
18. …as well as toys, school supplies, and encouragement,
The note reads, “We hope you reunite with your family soon. Welcome!”
19. “The fact is that these women and children come from the same part of the world and are fleeing the same violence that unaccompanied minors are as well,” UWD spokesman Mario Carrillo told BuzzFeed.
He said many of the children have notices to appear in court, meaning they’re placed in deportation proceedings, and it’s uncertain if they will be allowed to stay.
20. “United We Dream went to McAllen to show these refugees love, to humanize their story and to let them know that they are not alone,” Carillo said.
21. The organization also staged a rally at McAllen’s Central Bus Station, where children and families head to their destination.
22. Actress America Ferrera went to McAllen on July 27 along with Hispanic Heritage Foundation (HHF) president Antonio Tijerino to bring comfort to the children and families.
23. “This effort is focused on helping these refugee children cope and provide hope with their situation through reading, playing, and praying,” Tijerino said.
24. The Refugee Enrichment And Development Project (READ) is providing free access to interactive eBooks in Spanish for volunteers to read to and with the children, and the HHF is donating tablets for volunteers to use with them.
25. In direct response to the protests against the children, community members came out in support for the unaccompanied minors.
26. On July 9, a coalition of immigrant rights and faith-based organizations from Inland Empire region held a vigil outside City Hall in Murrieta, Cal., to collect donations for immigrant families that were transported to southern California from Texas.
27. Around 200 supporters attended the vigil, during which religious leaders of different denominations denounced anti-immigrant protests in Murrieta and called for a more compassionate response by the community.
28. Catholic Charities and the Diocese of San Bernardino have taken the lead on housing the immigrants, using parishes and other facilities as “transitional housing centers,” Luis Nolasco, an organizer with the Inland Empire Immigrant Youth Coalition, said.
29. That same week, Georgia Johnson drove to a site outside the Border Patrol station in Murrieta where protestors who blocked three buses carrying immigrant families had been camping out for a week.
30. Johnson, a resident of nearby Winchester, told BuzzFeed she was inspired by media reports to go to the site and stand with groups rallying in support of the immigrants. But when she arrived, there were no protesters on her side.
31. Undeterred, she got out of her car with a sign that read “As ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me,” a biblical verse.
I think the voice of compassion should be heard,” Johnson said. “These people — these children and these mothers — are coming from unbelievable lives. I see them coming as refugees, I don’t see them coming as migrants that want to live off us… and I think we ought to welcome them and take care of them.”
32. Frank Pierson of Oracle, an Arizona town that was set to receive children, admitted frustration with how the Obama administration has communicated during this time, but believes the children should be supported.
33. He and his wife, Mary Ellen Kazda, launched the Oracle Have A Heart campaign to get people to think with compassion.
34. Pierson showed up with a large group to support the children, complete with mariachi band, after protesters came to stop a bus that was set to bring some to Oracle.
35. “The notion of welcoming the stranger actually is a nonnegotiable and it is taught relentlessly by our bishop. Pope Francis has been aggressive and public over and over again,” Pierson said in a video entitled Oracle, Arizona is not Murrieta, California.
“Benedict was also aggressive in his promotion of welcoming migrants as was John Paul II, aggressively welcoming,” he said. Whereas other issues may be more controversial there’s absolutely no controversy among our religious leaders on this subject.”