How to help unaccompanied immigrant children this holiday season
Despite the state of Texas pulling out of the Federal Refugee Resettlement Program earlier this year, local non-profits continue to help resettle refugees. In the past few years, there has been a surge in unaccompanied immigrant children from Central and South America entering the United States. Many of these children are from the “Northern Triangle” of Central America (El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala) and Mexico.
To read more about this wave of unaccompanied immigrant children check out our “Journey to Safety” blog series here.
All of these children have survived traumatic experiences from rampant gang violence, civil war and extreme poverty in their home countries. Most experience extremely difficult circumstances during the long 2,000 miles journey to the United States and are often the victims of human trafficking. In 2014, the number of border crossings of unaccompanied minors increased by 128% in the Texas Rio Grande Valley alone. Most of these children make the journey to join family already settled in the United States. In 2016, 59,692 unaccompanied immigrant children entered the United States, and over 7,000 of these children were resettled in Texas. Instead of being deported these children are turned over to The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).
Upbring, the new face of the 135-year-old “Lutheran Social Services of the South” (LSS) is a non-profit organization on a mission “to break the cycle of child abuse by empowering children to take back their lives and build a bright future free from abuse, neglect, and trauma.” Upbring offers services for children in foster care, residential treatment, and education, adoption, and community services. The nonprofit serves over 27,000 vulnerable families annually in Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma.
The organization works with The ORR and has four facilities throughout Texas that provide services to unaccompanied children. In 2006, Upbring revised their program at Bokenkamp, located in Corpus Christi to accommodate the rise of unaccompanied child refugees. The program offers temporary transitional foster care placements to immigrant children in Texas. They have since expanded their ORR services to include a transitional foster care program called “New Hope” in Corpus Christi and El Paso and supports an emergency shelter in McAllen as well. These programs provide shelter, food, clothing, recreation, computer and language education opportunities. There are professionals on staff 24/7.
This holiday season TXICFW donated needed supplies to the Bokenkamp program and New Hope facility in McAllen. Last year these services provided services to 1,759 unaccompanied children. We wanted to help with some of the needs of these foster youth during the holidays. We donated an assortment of hygiene products, like diapers and wipes, toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, clothing (shirts and pants) and toys (magic markers and sports balls) to the youth living in these facilities.
The border crossings continue to increase as violence continues in Central America. Most of these refugee programs are overwhelmed and underfunded. We know that these donations cannot erase the hardships these children have faced, but we believe in the inherent capacity of people to heal, and experience healthy wellbeing. We hope these small conveniences play a part in these childrens’ journey to live full, enriching lives, free of violence and fear. If you are interested in donating, please visit Upbring’s website to learn how you can help this holiday season.