Fort Worth

Children separated at the border are staying at Fort Worth's Catholic Charities

Migrant children separated from their parents through the Trump administration's zero-tolerance immigration policy are being served by Catholic Charities Fort Worth, according to Bishop Michael Olson.

"The use of separation of children, including babies, from their mothers and fathers at the U.S./Mexico border as a tool for implementing the Administration's zero tolerance policy is sinful because it undermines the right to life of the vulnerable, directly traumatizes those who have already been injured, and undermines the role of legitimate authority," Olson said in a statement.

The Trump administration's policy, framed as a deterrent to those seeking to cross the border, prosecutes parents and puts children in a federal government program created to serve young immigrants who come to the United States by themselves.

Olson said the local nonprofit, which partners with the federal government to offer temporary shelter to youngsters, is helping children who have been separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Little details were released by the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth, but it did confirm Tuesday that Catholic Charities Fort Worth is sheltering an undisclosed number of migrant children. The agency's small 26-bed facility has a history of assisting migrant children.

In a response to a list of 16 questions from the Star-Telegram, Pat Svacina, spokesman for the diocese, said that out of "respect for the privacy of all children," no details were released.

It's not clear how many children are being held at Catholic Charities, whether they're boys or girls, how old they are or whether any have been released to families. He did not say when the unaccompanied children first came to the shelter or how many staff the shelter had on hand to care for them.

Svacina did say the agency has contracted with the federal government's Office of Refugee Resettlement. The shelter is operated by Catholic Charities staff.

A Trump administration official told reporters this week that 2,342 children were separated from their parents between May 9 and June 5 as part of the administration's zero-tolerance immigration policy.

"The unwarranted separation of parents from their children not only harms those relationships but undermines the right to life, the respect for legitimate authority, and all other basic human rights in society," Olson said in his statement.

Olson's statement included a brief explanation that the diocese is serving these migrant children as part of Catholic Charities' International Foster Care Program and its Assessment Center.

"Catholic Charities staff stands ready to expand the program as needed," the statement said.

In 2014, Catholic Charities aided youngsters from Central America in a facility that could accommodate 26 children. At that time, a large influx of unaccompanied minors from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala caused a national crisis. Reports indicated that many youngsters were driven from their homelands because of violent crimes, including rapes, killings and kidnappings.

When the Star-Telegram toured the facility in south Fort Worth in 2014, it held nine children. They slept in small bedrooms. The shelter included a lunchroom, classroom, recess area and a game room.

Olson said in his statement that helping the migrant youngsters honors the Catholic teachings.

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Sarah Smith, 817-390-7186, @sarahesmith23
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