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.”