WXXI AM News

Catholic Family Center: No forcibly separated youth here

Jun 23, 2018

The Catholic Family Center in Rochester is not currently helping young people forcibly separated at the border from their families. That’s according to staff there who say a Washington Post report isn’t completely accurate about the Center’s role in helping minors coming to America.

While the center does help unaccompanied minors who cross the border, it has no current plans to take in children separated within the past week. The Center’s CEO and president, Marlene Bessette, says that’s because processing the children can take months and ultimately still depends on the Center’s evaluation of how well the community can meet the child’s needs.

“We tend to have eight children at any point in time,” said Bessette. She says the Center is part of the Unaccompanied Refugee Minor and Unaccompanied Alien Children programs so staff there regularly help children navigate a new land.  

“We limit it to eight right now because of the resources available in the community. Both medical resources and mostly legal resources because one of the things we commit to when the children are brought into our care is that we will get legal resolution of their case,” she said.

Bessette says there is no shortage of housing. Right now, they have more than 30 foster homes ready to go and even older kids find housing relatively easily. She says once they even found housing for a 16-year-old mother with her toddler.

“There would be an opportunity if we had empty slots right now,” said Bessette. “We’d have to make decisions about [if we would bring] children here who had been separated from their parents forcibly.”

People all over the nation have been divided about President Donald Trump;s recent decision to separate families at the border and criminally process parents. The children have been placed in separate facilities, including toddlers who are being housed in “Tender Age” camps. Some reports show the children sleeping in cages and under foil blankets.

But on Thursday, Trump reversed that decision in an executive order. Yet the Justice Department maintains the “zero tolerance” policy is in effect and any proceedings already started will continue. This week, officials with the Departmnet of Homeland Security said that 500 of the original 2,300 separated children were reunited with their families. It’s not clear if they’re being detained together.

Bessette says the lengthy process means that even if some of these young people end up in Rochester, it won’t be for several months. She says many of the youth who are currently there come from the 2014 surge in child migrants. Those children came from Central America and caused a nationwide discussion about the need to help youth escaping violence back at home.