By Cathy Harasta - The Texas Catholic
FORT WORTH — Fort Worth Bishop Michael Olson on July 15 underscored the collaboration uniting efforts by his diocese and the Diocese of Dallas as a key element in responding to the humanitarian crisis at the nation’s southwestern border.
Bishop Olson joined officials from Catholic Charities of Dallas and Catholic Charities Fort Worth during a news briefing at the Fort Worth organization’s main campus.
“We have to balance urgency with prudence,” Bishop Olson said.
“How do we respond in the best way? That, of course, requires collaboration…”
He emphasized that his diocese was “in solidarity” with Bishop Kevin J. Farrell of Dallas, who was attending out-of-town meetings.
Vanna Slaughter, who directs the Immigration and Legal Services Department of Catholic Charities of Dallas, said that her organization is doing its best to respond to the surge this summer of immigrants from Central America, many of whom are unaccompanied minor children.
“It has exploded that rapidly and that dynamically,” she said. “We have done our very level best to try to interpret this very complex and complicated issue.”
In a recent blog on the issue, Bishop Farrell noted that Catholic Charities of Dallas has expertise in working with refugees from generations of experience, but the unaccompanied children present unique problems both legal and protective.
“Obviously, the cause of this flood of refugee children, the unstable and unsafe conditions of some Central American countries, must be addressed but the immediate problem is the children who are being warehoused in overcrowded and dangerous temporary facilities by the government,” Bishop Farrell said.
He said that the Diocese of Dallas has no residential facility, but individual placements have already begun.
“This tragic situation can only be resolved with prayer, wisdom and compassion,” Bishop Farrell said.
Slaughter’s department offers specialized training so that attorneys can better represent the children and assist parents who are searching for their children, Slaughter said.
Catholic Charities of Dallas is accepting monetary donations to assist with filing fees in the immigration process. Those wishing to donate may visit ccofdallasblog.org and view the information on how to help with the crisis of unaccompanied children.
The Dallas organization has been working with unaccompanied minors and their families for four years and has trained about 80 volunteer attorneys, Slaughter said.
Dallas County judge Clay Jenkins recently initiated a plan calling for up to 2,000 of the unaccompanied minors to be housed in North Texas, though their arrival date appears uncertain.
Slaughter said that Catholic Charities of Dallas expects to help the initiative with the flurry of needs when the children arrive in North Texas.
“We need all kinds of talent and treasure,” Slaughter said.
Heather Reynolds, CEO of Catholic Charities Fort Worth, said that she expects her agency’s shelter, which has 32 beds, will accommodate 300 to 400 of the unaccompanied children this year. She said that each child generally stays for two or three weeks.
“Our sole purpose is to focus on providing a safe, loving and nurturing environment,” Reynolds said.
She called the community’s offers of support for the children “nothing short of amazing.”
Reynolds said the greatest needs are for more foster families and for financial and in-kind donations. She listed cleaning items, school supplies and activity boxes—perhaps containing puzzles or games of interest to young people—as the most helpful items for those wishing to help in that way.