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Humanitarian crisis … in America?

July 17th, 2014
06:36 AM ET

By Mick Krever and Claire Calzonetti, CNN

All around the world tonight, children will not sleep in their own beds.

It's a troubling reality of the devastating humanitarian crises affecting places like Gaza, Syria, Iraq, Nigeria, Congo.

But it's also happening somewhere you may not expect: the United States.

A surge of unaccompanied children are now sitting in detention centers and shelters near the U.S.-Mexico border; the American government has apprehended nearly 60,000 unaccompanied children crossing the border since October.

On the frontlines of that crisis is Bishop Daniel Flores.

“I think it's impossible for most people in the United States to imagine both the conditions that they're coming from in their country in terms of just the fear of a violent death, or the conditions that they experienced as they passed through the interior of Mexico, where there's a great deal of preying upon these youth,” Flores told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Wednesday.

America’s politicians agree that the country has an immigration problem, even if they do not agree on the solution; but to Bishop Flores, it is a humanitarian crisis first and foremost.

The unaccompanied minors are “seeking asylum or seeking some kind of refugee from the devastating conditions in their country of origin.”

“The stories often involve leaving small towns or villages that are afflicted by great violence – of course, lack of food, poverty.”

“A lot of times I hear that the children will choose to leave – these are 11-, 12- , 13-year olds – choose to leave on their own without necessarily informing their parents.”

“I think very often the young people aren't aware – in fact, I'm quite sure they're aren't aware – of the great dangers they face as they cross the interior of Mexico by bus or on train to finally make it somewhere near to the United States.”

Because of the intricacies of American law, child migrants arriving from Central America (unlike those arriving from Mexico) are not immediately deported and are granted broader legal rights.

“There are policy issues that have to be addressed, but the immediate need is to address what the children need and how to help them, because the church's first response has to be to the human person.”

“We offer them a change of clothing, a shower, some baby clothes if that's needed … a first pair of shoes that they've seen in a long time.”

“They don't generally stay with us here in our assistant centers very long ... maybe it's a few hours or less than a day. And then they will move on to … a family member or to someone else elsewhere in the country.”

The leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, this week made a plea to address the “humanitarian emergency” of immigration.

“Despite the large influx of migrants present in all continents and in almost all countries, migration is still seen as an emergency, or as a circumstantial and sporadic fact, while instead it has now become a hallmark of our society and a challenge,” he wrote in a letter to a migration conference being held in Mexico.

“I think the Holy Father, Pope Francis, has spoken very forcefully about the need for the industrialized countries, the economically developed countries, to be attentive to and not turn a blind eye through a kind of indifference to the suffering that's affecting such huge swaths of the population across the world,” Bishop Flores said. “And it certain is a reality here in the Western Hemisphere.”

“It is a refugee situation that requires a hemispheric response that we must, in a certain way, in our foreign policy address the instability and the violence and the conditions in these countries of origin.”

Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Immigration • Latest Episode • U.S. Politics
soundoff (58 Responses)
  1. S Vega

    Don't believe it. This is not a "humanitarian crisis" and these are not "refugees". Nothing has changed in South America. Obama is using this as an excuse to try to push Amnesty. Most of these people will end up on the public dole and 52% of Latin teenagers end up being unwed mothers. I've lived in the Southwest all of my life and many border towns and cities look like the third world countries they came from. They bring their culture of poverty with them and bring all of us down. They need to be fed, clothed and respectfully SEND BACK HOME. We can't afford to take care of our own much less others.

    July 17, 2014 at 10:04 am | Reply
    • TallusRip


      July 17, 2014 at 1:40 pm | Reply
    • NorCalMojo

      If that was his intent, he miscalculated.

      This episode demonstrates a direct link between promises of amnesty an increased illegal immigration.

      We told them we wouldn't deport children and within months we're saturated with children and minors.

      Even American voters can't miss that connection for very much longer.

      Imagine the rush a general amnesty would invite.

      July 17, 2014 at 3:04 pm | Reply
    • MD

      This is not a humanitarian crisis, this NEEDS to be called child neglect for letting this kids to travel alone through a dangerous country like Mexico. Both Mexico and their parents should be punished for not stopping them. Here in USA if I let me kid home alone, I go to jail. If I leave my kid abandoned in a hot car I go to jail, so, why these kid's parents are able to leave their routines with no consequences? If anyone dare to give shelter to any of the kids they will be exposed to be killed or expelled from their own homes. We don;t know their backgrounds or to whom they are connected to. Worse than that, their siblings will probably show up to you house one day asking for shelter because one of theirs already lives there. I hate to see my tax money been spent this way, specially when some one made over $200,000,000 million dollars s in the other side? Why $200,000,000 million dollars, well, they are been interviewed on the Hispanic channels and it turns out they are paying up to $5,000 to the coyotes. Make the math yourself and you'll see. Avg $4,000 per head times 50,000... and now, we are the ones paying for their back home ticket??? Give me a break.

      July 17, 2014 at 5:22 pm | Reply
  2. WVLady63


    July 17, 2014 at 10:18 am | Reply
    • lou poure

      "TELL THEIR OWN COUNTRIES TO TAKE CARE OF THEIR OWN" I hope this reflects your ideals in the States as well.

      July 17, 2014 at 1:07 pm | Reply
      • NorCalMojo

        More poor people will just make things worse for the poor in the US.

        The working poor have been hammered by illegal immigration. The glut of low skill labor doesn't allow scarcity to kick in and raise their wages so they keep sinking lower and lower.

        On top of that, the glut of low skill renters increases their rent.

        July 17, 2014 at 3:16 pm |
    • leonbarber2000

      Well spoken, we should worry about our own before we worry about about a bunch of illegal gangsters. Obama should be charged with treason and sent to Gitmo with the other terrorist.

      July 17, 2014 at 4:46 pm | Reply
  3. Pandora's Box

    Yes, they are illegal. Yes, this is all a political ploy from Obama. Yes, Obama is using these people for his own gain!

    HOWEVER, there are thousands of children in diapers involved! These children have no mothers, no family accompanying them!!!
    I have seen it first hand. You really think these toddlers have any say on where they go, on what bus they get put on? You really think these babies have any say on how little they will get fed during the course of a week?
    Do you think they have any say on whether mom abandons them or not?
    NO they don't have any say!

    They are innocent – and therefore this DOES BECOME A HUMANITARIAN EFFORT!!!! Not so much for the mothers and adults crossing over, but for those children who have NO SAY in the cause and effect happening in their lives! Those children ARE NOT CRIMINALS!!

    I am livid that Obama is using these people to his advantage – and luring us to feel compassion!!

    Because yes they may be illegal. BUT THEY ARE HUMAN BEINGS at the end of the day! Just like all of us here in the United States!!

    We owe it to our human race to look after each other – regardless of the Country we hold allegiance to!

    We feel awful when we see malnourished children, dying children in Africa in those commercials – well here's our chance to help these children – not necessarily Africans, but definitely HUMANS at the end of the day!!!

    July 17, 2014 at 12:01 pm | Reply
    • Michelle

      Don't hold your breath, honey. US has lost any trace of the humanity you are appealing to longtime ago. As long as it is nothing to gain, there is no interest in the topic

      July 17, 2014 at 3:04 pm | Reply
    • leonbarber2000

      What you speak I can go along with, but we cannot afford to become the foster parents for all the worlds kids who have bad parents. Am sure everyone is with you on this, but you have to be realistic about the situation.

      July 17, 2014 at 5:27 pm | Reply
  4. Rajashekar

    When america goes all over world to protect people of syria, Iraq, Libya , afghanistan
    Why cant they do some more noble deed of helping these childrens

    July 17, 2014 at 12:09 pm | Reply
    • anonymous

      SOO TRUE!

      July 17, 2014 at 1:41 pm | Reply
    • TallusRip

      Because the other countries have oil in them. If America really gave half a damn about other countries' refugees and poor, we'd have blown down the walls of North Korea by now. But there's nothing of value there. What do Mexico and other Latin American countries have? Bananas?

      July 17, 2014 at 1:44 pm | Reply
      • anonymous

        100% correct but unfortunate just think if the world would actually try to get rid of evil and remove crime, not just cover it up or put in a cage an care for it.

        July 17, 2014 at 1:52 pm |
      • NorCalMojo

        Mexico has crazy oil. Your theory needs work.

        July 17, 2014 at 2:53 pm |
    • NorCalMojo

      We are helping them. What story are you reading?

      July 17, 2014 at 2:52 pm | Reply
      • Michelle

        Not the story, the comments attached to it

        July 17, 2014 at 3:07 pm |
    • Michelle

      Heard of "what's in it for me"? Nothing so there is no reason to help

      July 17, 2014 at 3:06 pm | Reply
    • MD

      What for? To support child abuse? Their parents are neglecting them. Some others are looking for their parents that left them behind... which in the other hand don't want to be sent back claiming their family will be split. Come on Pancho, you already split your family but you careless about them because they are a burden to you.

      July 17, 2014 at 5:31 pm | Reply
  5. fadia

    thanks God soon America is going down

    July 17, 2014 at 12:20 pm | Reply
    • Dan

      Be careful what you wish for, it could be much worse without America leading the way.

      July 17, 2014 at 1:16 pm | Reply
      • MD

        I'm sure Fadia love dollars and Disney World!!!

        July 17, 2014 at 5:32 pm |
    • TallusRip

      There is no god. People make their own beds to lie in.

      July 17, 2014 at 1:41 pm | Reply
    • NorCalMojo

      I thought that was 1984.....I mean 2000.......I mean 2012

      Your choices will be Chinese hegemony, Russian Hegemony, Islamic rule, or a dark age.

      July 17, 2014 at 2:51 pm | Reply
    • leonbarber2000

      Sounds to me like you have been chewing too much ghat amigo.

      July 17, 2014 at 5:32 pm | Reply
  6. geopolitical perspective

    There's a simple solution to this problem. Make all the latin and central American countries American states. We're simply stronger in numbers. They can contribute to the workforce and share whatever skills and knowledge they have. Then they won't have to cross the border because they'd all be Americans. Can add a few NFL, NBA and MLB teams there.

    July 17, 2014 at 12:47 pm | Reply
    • TallusRip

      Yeah, let's give these people MORE of a reason to come here. While we're at it, why not annex the poor half of India. America could always use hundreds of millions more poor, unskilled, uneducated, and supersticious people.

      July 17, 2014 at 1:43 pm | Reply
    • anonymous

      you have a better idea? doesn't sound too bad how did our country become what it is today? was it build always on greed and selfishness? do those that don't care see how blind and destructive they are?

      July 17, 2014 at 1:48 pm | Reply
      • TallusRip

        There have actually been studies that show that the more wealthy a person is, the more apathy they feel. It's not universal but it's generally true. Rich people from industry (rather than, say, celebrity) think more about how to make the most money because they don't care, or don't know about, the damage they do making it.

        July 17, 2014 at 2:12 pm |
    • NorCalMojo

      Why not?

      Our reliance on immigration was part and parcel with our expansionist policies of the 1800's.

      As long as we're holding on to one relic of Manifest Destiny, we might as well go whole hog.

      July 17, 2014 at 3:00 pm | Reply
  7. NorCalMojo

    This was brought on by Obama's promise not to deport children.

    Imagine the rush and humanitarian crisis a full blown amnesty will cause.

    July 17, 2014 at 2:30 pm | Reply
  8. Cynetta

    Great that Bishop Flores and Pope Francis are so very concerned!
    We'll ship them to the Vatican!

    July 17, 2014 at 2:32 pm | Reply
    • MD

      Good one!!

      July 17, 2014 at 5:33 pm | Reply
  9. Paul

    It is interesting that we can spend 3 trillion dollars on wars abroad and thousands of American's lives, but people claim we cannot afford to take care of our own people. We are the wealthiest nation on earth and absorbing 100,000 child refugees from violent countries would not even be a blip on our economic situation. Children coming to the United States as refugees fleeing violence can be integrated and assimilated into society and become economically productive. Turning a blind eye will only cause these young children to be forced into gangs or radical sects and will produce more violence in these countries and perpetuate young youths who have nothing to loose to become radical such as what is happening in places like Iraq, Seria, Pakistan and Afghanistan. This perpetual "nothing to loose" mentality among young people will cause us to be constantly in fear of another large scale terrorist event and will mean giving up more of our freedoms to feel "safe". The answer is not turning a blind eye or thinking that killing everyone that turns radical is the solution.

    July 17, 2014 at 2:40 pm | Reply
    • NorCalMojo

      Osama Bin Laden was filthy rich. Most of the 911 terrorists were educated and from "good" families.

      The idea that poverty causes extremism is a myth.

      July 17, 2014 at 2:45 pm | Reply
    • MD

      Paul, our health system has been drastically impacted without mentioning Social Security funds. I know Cuban and also MExicans that have never worked in this country collecting Social Security and I know many mexicans with one dozen kids having them for free because they keep changing locations with fake names not to pay the hospital bills. What you are talking about?

      July 17, 2014 at 5:36 pm | Reply
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    July 17, 2014 at 2:44 pm | Reply
  11. cecilia palomino

    all the poor countries support to usa, usa take advantages of the natural resources of all these undeveloped countries.

    July 17, 2014 at 3:18 pm | Reply
  12. TPMelbourne

    The issue is almost always a country's oppressive leadership and its policies that create the "crisis". Yet the same Pope is quick to condemn any country that would step in and help remove the "problem" if that means force.
    Does he really believe shifting populations to the "industrialized" nations while ignoring the root of the problem at home is a viable long term solution. Maybe being Pope doesn't bring the "enlightenment" that many would believe.

    July 20, 2014 at 8:53 am | Reply
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