Humanitarian Crisis: children refugees flood into United States

By June 16, 2014

USA (MNN) — Children refugees are flooding into the United States because home is no longer safe.

For Bethany Christian Services, there isn’t any question about whether or not they should help.

According to the New York Times, 47,017 children have been caught crossing the border without parents since October 1, 2013. That is 92% more than the same period the year before. The majority of the children are from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

Bethany Christian Services does some work directly in Guatemala, and they are helping refugees from Guatemala and nearby countries (Photo courtesy of Bethany Christian Services)

Bethany Christian Services does some work directly in Guatemala, and they are helping refugees from Guatemala and nearby countries (Photo courtesy of Bethany Christian Services)

The crisis was addressed earlier this month when Obama ordered FEMA into the situation. Some of the children are being relocated to other areas of the country until their cases move through immigration courts. Children who have no family in the States to take care of them can be put into foster care.

We spoke with Dona Abbott of Bethany to hear what they are doing, and why it’s a matter that you should consider.

Abbott says, “Bethany believes that every child deserves a home with parents who can provide for their needs and protect them, nurture them, help them grow up to be responsible, caring adults.

“These children right now, in this crisis, are without that kind of protection. Our government is responding; people are there at the border doing the best they can to offer that protection. The estimate says that it could be over 90,000 children before some basic resolution to this crisis occurs.”

Abbott believes that if something isn’t done, the number will reach 90,000 this year.

Bethany is offering temporary foster care to children who can’t be immediately reunified with their family. They are also working with the families who take in children to make sure they are adjusting well.

Abbott says, “People want to come to our country, so you have that from around the world, not just on our southern border. Often in crisis, there’s a push factor also that kind of tips those numbers past those that normally come because they’re being pulled here for the opportunities or relationships offered in the United States.”

President Obama recently addressed the humanitarian crisis in a memorandum to executive departments and agencies involved.

What’s causing the increase in border crossings?

Organized crime in Central America. The drug cartel targets vulnerable populations: children, single mothers and women, and groups living in poverty.

“It became a crisis over the last several months as those numbers from Central America started to multiply as the violence began to increase.”

The cartel activity is behind the violence in those countries.

“People are fleeing the country and coming to the first country where the cartels don’t have that kind of control which happens to be the United States,” Abbott says.

Other refugee children are coming simply because they believe America offers them a way out of poverty.

“The journey is very dangerous, as you can imagine,” Abbott says, “and we’re talking about very young children often: not just adolescents, which is tough enough, but we’re talking about children who are as young as two years old.”

Some sources say that the number of girls, children under 13, and children who can barely walk is increasing as well.

The younger children are making it to the border with the help of community members, friends, or other children. They are often abandoned at the border.

What’s worse is coyotes:a group of people taking advantage of the situation. They charge families high prices to transport their child across the border, promising to keep them safe.

“Those promises are not kept or honored, and so children are put in very dangerous situations and are very vulnerable to things like human-trafficking,” says Abbott.

In the last month, Abbott estimates, numbers of people crossing the country reached up to 6,000 a week.

“It’s not just children anymore,” she says. “Now it’s single moms with children. Those vulnerable populations will continue to feel the need to find safety for themselves and for their family.”

Why should you get involved?

“Because the Lord calls us to care for the alien, the widow, and the orphan, and that’s exactly who’s in the middle of this crisis,” says Abbott.

“As Christians, we look to the Bible to guide us, to tell us what we need to do in these situations. So there’s just no doubt in our minds that we’re called to respond in a humanitarian way, regardless of the politics. That’s not the issue here. These are children who are traumatized, who are hungry, who need the Christian community to reach out and wrap their arms around them.”

The children are by no means safe once they reach the country. Their basic needs have been neglected.

“Kids don’t think about those things when they’re running for their safety,” Abbott explains.

“I believe that’s the Christian community who will embrace them and meet those needs.”

How can you meet their needs?

Bethany has 130 branch offices across the United States. If you’re interested in providing temporary refuge for these children through foster care, please contact Bethany’s local branch office here or send an e-mail to [email protected].

If you are interested in mentoring or tutoring Bethany’s refugee foster care youth, please e-mail [email protected].

You can also call 1-800-Bethany.

Abbott explains another way you can get involved: “I think wherever a Christian is called to step forward and help in this situation, they can call their state licensing bureau and see what agency is providing that kind of shelter care for children.”

People wanting to help can do things like supplying financial support, volunteering to provide transportation to medical appointments and simple things like that.

Of the Christian community Abbott says, “We have an obligation to say ‘we’re here’ and to have a loud voice saying ‘we’re here and we want to help.'”

Above all, Abbott says, there is ALWAYS need for prayer. Pray for the kids’ safety, well-being, for their families, and for those reaching out to help.


  • Paula says:

    But aren’t they here illegally ?

  • Julie Oosterhouse says:

    Thank you for your comment. The children are technically here illegally. However, they are refugees. By United States law, while the children wait for their deportation cases to be processed, they are put with family in the United States, or under federal care. That is why Bethany is trying, while the children are here, to provide them a healthy, safe home to stay in. Here is a great article from the New York Times if you’d like to read up on it more.

  • I have been praying churches and Christians along the border
    will volunteer to help provide love, care, and protection for these children. I am glad to hear what Bethany Christians Services is doing.
    God bless you and provide the support you need for this crisis. Gene Madeira

  • I spent 32 years of my life in Guatemala and Mexico, and I can tell you that the poverty and violence in these countries has always existed. The situation is desperate, but the reason why we are seeing a flood of children (a 92% increase this year!!!) is because they misunderstand the Dream Act. They think it means that if they can get their children up here, they will be given legal status. That is the rumor they have heard. Our ambassadors really should do everything they can to put that myth to rest. It is not safe or healthy for these children come up here. At the same time, it really doesn’t matter why they are here, the fact is that they are, and Christians have a moral and spiritual obligation to offer to the “least of these” the comfort and shelter we would offer to the Lord.

  • Where can I send money to help with border crisis in Texas and how can I help plug others into this mission by using fb and email?

  • Julie Oosterhouse says:

    Great question. To be sure that your money goes directly to this specific crisis, I suggest that you contact an individual at 1-800-Bethany or fill out a contact/inquiry form here . The biggest thing you can do through Facebook is raise awareness. This is one way families who feel called to be a temporary foster care provider can get connected.

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