The Archdiocese of Chicago will seek federal permission to temporarily house some of the children who have breached the country’s southern border in recent weeks, Roman Catholic officials said Wednesday.
“The archdiocese is definitely reaching out and trying to be helpful,” spokeswoman Colleen Dolan said. “We are offering to assist the (government) and we have applied to be an organization that they will use to work with the children.”
The planned application, first reported by the Chicago Sun-Times, comes days after Sen. Mark Kirk said more than 400 migrant children were being held by the government in the Chicago area. The Illinois Republican asked that the kids undergo criminal background checks and be quickly returned to their Central American home nations.
Dolan said the archdiocese is applying to the federal Department of Health and Human Services to provide lodging to children. She said applications are due to the government early next month and the diocese will learn after that whether they will take in kids and, if so, how many.
Dolan said the archdiocese’s application was spearheaded by Cardinal Francis George, who was in a bishops’ meeting Wednesday and unavailable to comment.
“This is all coming from the cardinal,” Dolan said. “He went to all these people and said, ‘We want to do something. What can we do?’”
Dolan said the archdiocese is working with Maryville Academy, a Catholic facility that assists troubled kids and families, and the local arm of Catholic Charities in its plan to help.
“Maryville can offer housing and specialty programs,” Dolan said. “And they’ve dealt with troubled children and they have all kinds of specialists who could be very helpful depending on what these children have gone through.”
She said Catholic Charities has bilingual and multicultural expertise that would be useful in working with the children. A Chicago team of Catholic Charities workers may be traveling to assist along the border in Texas, a spokeswoman said.
Illegal border crossers, many of them unaccompanied minors fleeing gang wars, have shown up in increasing numbers along the U.S. border in recent months, overwhelming detention centers and prompting demonstrations by activists on both sides of the issue.
While many lawmakers have argued for the children’s speedy deportation, Pope Francis wrote this week that the kids should be “welcomed and protected,” according to a Vatican Radio translation. The pontiff said the children arriving in the United States are trying “to escape poverty and violence” and pursuing “a hope that in most cases turns out to be vain.”Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun