In a message sent to the Mexico-Holy See Colloquium on Migration and Development, Pope Francis directly addressed the growing humanitarian crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, speaking on behalf of the young immigrants and calling for the international community to do more to care for their needs.
The Pope also called for an immediate humanitarian response for the roughly 50,000 unaccompanied minors who crossed into the United States this year. In his message, the Pope drew attention to the reason that the children were leaving their home — violence and poverty — and how, often times, their hopes end up being in vain:
I would also like to draw attention to the tens of thousands of children who migrate alone, unaccompanied, to escape poverty and violence: This is a category of migrants from Central America and Mexico itself who cross the border with the United States under extreme conditions and in pursuit of a hope that in most cases turns out to be vain. They are increasing day by day. This humanitarian emergency requires, as a first urgent measure, these children be welcomed and protected.
The Pope also noted that the international community should move to address the vicious cycles of violence and poverty that are causing the children to flee their homeland:
These measures, however, will not be sufficient, unless they are accompanied by policies that inform people about the dangers of such a journey and, above all, that promote development in their countries of origin. Finally, this challenge demands the attention of the entire international community so that new forms of legal and secure migration may be adopted.
The Pope has made the struggles faced by immigrant populations a central focus of his ministry, in addition to focusing on poverty and income inequality — so much so, the American right-wing explodes in hate every time his name is mentioned. According to ThinkProgress:
Since ascending to the papacy last year, Pope Francis has made immigrant populations and their struggles a central focus of his ministry. His first official trip outside the Vatican was to Lampedusa, an island in the southern Mediterranean that harbors African migrants seeking passage to Europe. There he met with immigrants and later tweeted, “We pray for a heart which will embrace immigrants. God will judge us upon how we have treated the most needy.” On the World Day of Migrants and Refugees in September 2013, he condemned human trafficking, saying “Migrants and refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity. They are children, women and men who leave or who are forced to leave their homes for various reasons, who share a legitimate desire for knowing and having, but above all for being more.” He also surprised 2,000 immigrant residents at the Dono di Maria shelter near the Vatican with Christmas gifts last year, offering them care packages and prepaid phone cards so they could contact their families over the holidays.
The current Pope has also made personal encounters with immigrants. While leading a mass the day before he was scheduled to meet with President Obama, he was approached by a 10-year-old girl who pleaded with the pope to address the rise in immigrant deportations. Reportedly, Francis blessed the young girl, and promised to speak with the President about her concern.
A number of Catholic groups and charities are already playing an active role in the effort to provide care and shelter for the unaccompanied immigrant children on the border. However, many of them are reportedly overwhelmed by the sheer number of kids, and are urging the President and Congress to do more with the crisis. The Pope is reportedly considering a visit to the US-Mexico border in 2015.