Protests planned in North Texas over immigration issue

07/15/2014 1:52 PM

07/16/2014 11:45 AM

As donations flowed in for thousands of immigrant children at the Texas-Mexico border Tuesday, protests were planned in several North Texas cities for later this week, and Fort Worth Bishop Michael Olson called for an balanced response.

“It is a humanitarian crisis,” Olson told reporters gathered for a news conference Tuesday in Fort Worth. “It is not a partisan crisis.”

Youngsters fleeing violence and abuse in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala have been arriving in the United States in record numbers. Federal authorities predict between 60,000 and 90,000 children migrants will travel to the U.S. this year.

“The urgency of the situation requires that we not only respond promptly but prudently — that is, in a measured, stable, collaborative and ordered manner that does not unintentionally or inadvertently do more harm to these already vulnerable minors,” Olson wrote in an open letter to the community this week.

He added, “As Pope Francis recently stated, ‘Let us be close to refugees, sharing their fears and their uncertainty about the future and concretely alleviating their suffering.’ ”

Olson said Catholic Charities in Fort Worth, Dallas and nationwide aim to help refugees in cooperation with the federal government.

“We are very much supportive of the rule of law,” he said.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, plan to file a bill to speed up deportation of thousands of Central American children — and ensure their safety while they are here.

Volunteers pour in

Heather Reynolds, CEO of Catholic Charities Fort Worth, said the agency has seen an outpouring of help. A recent volunteer orientation in Fort Worth drew about 120 people, and a meeting for potential international foster parents drew about 200.

“It has been such a blessing,” Reynolds said.

Area resident Anamaria Mares and her son, Roman, 7, were at the Catholic Charities campus Tuesday with items for unaccompanied minor children.

“We saw a need,” Mares said. “Whenever we see a need, we try to help as much as we can.”

Friends Paula Felty and Joy Denn, of Hurst and Grapevine, brought toiletries and other items.

“They are children, and they need people to care about them,” Felty said.

The care package included washcloths, hairbands, lip balm and toilet paper. They said they followed the list provided by Catholic Charities and brought some extra goodies for the youngsters as well. They said that, as mothers, they couldn’t turn their heads.

Catholic Charities Fort Worth has helped 200 unaccompanied minors in the last year, providing food and shelter in cooperation with the federal government. The agency expects to help 400 in the next 12 months, Reynolds said.

Catholic Charities of Dallas will be available to help these youngsters navigate the legal system. About 2,000 unaccompanied minors are expected to stay temporarily in Dallas under the supervision of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The immigration issue takes to North Texas streets in upcoming days with planned protests. Groups critical of the situation plan to take part locally in national protests Friday and Saturday. One event is planned in Arlington at the overpass at the Davis Street Bridge and Interstate 30.

Jo Wideman, executive director of Californians for Population Stabilization, is making information about upcoming protests available to people across the country. There are 34 planned protests in Texas by the group, whose website says: “Become part of a growing chorus of Americans demanding our leaders develop population stabilization policies that will help save some America for tomorrow.”

Several pro-immigration groups plan a counterprotest Saturday in Fort Worth at the overpass at 2850 Heritage Trace Parkway and Interstate 35 West. Immigrant advocates from Fort Worth, Dallas and Arlington have united to form a “Bienvenidos Niños/Welcome Children” group.

“We are going to be there to inform the public,” said Connie Paredes, a member of the group Pueblo Sin Fronteras in Dallas. We are ready and alert, and we are not going to let them do what they did in Murrieta,” where protesters in California turned away buses carrying immigrants.

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