By J.D. Long-García, Originally Published by AMERICA Magazine
(Re-posted with permission)
Around 20 to 30 new children have been attending Sunday Mass at St. Eugene de Mazenod Church in Brownsville, Tex. Parishioners pray for the children during the liturgy and then serve them breakfast.
“They want to take care of them and let them know they’re loved,” said the Rev. Kevin Collins, an Oblate and pastor of the parish. The children come from Casa Padre, the nearby shelter for unaccompanied minors.
A few years ago, the nonprofit Southwest Key Programs bought the building, which used to be a Walmart, and converted it into a detention shelter for undocumented minors who entered the United States illegally without their parents. Around 5 percent of the 1,500 children who are detained there have been separated from their parents.
The number of children at centers like this one has been escalating since Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero tolerance” policy, vowing to prosecute everyone who enters the United States illegally. Mr. Sessions said that children who enter illegally will be separated from the adult who accompanies them, whether the adult is a parent or a smuggler.
“You can see a certain sadness in them…. I’m sure they don’t want to go back.”
“You can see a certain sadness in them,” Father Collins said. “They’re in between. They left their home countries, and now they don’t know what’s next. They’re hoping and praying something happens. I’m sure they don’t want to go back.”