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Christian charity provides foster homes for hundreds of immigrant children amid border crisis

Immigration
Two young girls watch a World Cup soccer match on a television from their holding area where hundreds of mostly Central American immigrant children are being processed and held at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Nogales Placement Center in Nogales, Arizona, June 18, 2014. |

A leading Christian foster care agency has placed nearly 300 unaccompanied immigrant children in foster homes across the United States in recent months as the U.S. continues to deal with a surge of unaccompanied minors at the southern border.

Bethany Christian Services, a Michigan-based nonprofit organization, had placed 299 unaccompanied children in foster care homes nationwide since last November when a federal judge issued an injunction against former President Donald Trump’s use of Title 42 to deport unaccompanied children from the U.S. in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

BCS works to place the unaccompanied children taken into U.S. government custody with foster parents while they wait to be reunited with family already living in the U.S. 

Implementation of Title 42 and Migrant Protection Protocols, which required those seeking asylum in the U.S. to remain in Mexico while their cases were adjudicated, led to a dramatic drop in the number of illegal border crossings throughout most of 2020. 

Following President Joe Biden’s election and his administration’s subsequent reversal of the zero-tolerance Migrant Protection Protocols, the number of illegal border crossings has increased substantially, overwhelming border detention facilities as well as local governments. However, one Democrat Congressman suggested last month that the Biden administration may soon force some migrants to wait in Mexico while their asylum claims are adjudicated, saying that it looks like a “modified version of the MPP.”

The Washington Examiner reported that as of March 28, the number of unaccompanied children inside cells in the U.S. Border Patrol facilities stood at 5,767, more than double the 2,600 children in custody at the peak of the last border surge in June 2019. 

According to CBS News, there were over 17,000 unaccompanied children in the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol or Health and Human Services custody at the end of March.  

In an interview with The Christian Post, Bethany Christian Services CEO Chris Palusky shared his belief that children “are best cared for … in a family home, with parents meeting their individual and unique needs” as opposed to “large bed shelters.” 

The organization is “looking at doubling the number of children we can take,” Bethany’s Senior Advisor for Global, Refugee, and Immigrant Services Dona Abbott said. 

“Our mission is to demonstrate the love and compassion of Jesus Christ, and that’s exactly what Bethany is doing,” she said, adding that unaccompanied minors are “particularly vulnerable children.” 

To address the growing demand for bed space, Bethany is working with the Office of Refugee Resettlement to expand its bed capacity. 

While Bethany Christian Services has been resettling refugees since 1975 and working with unaccompanied children since the 1980s, the current border surge has provided challenges for the Christian organization. 

According to Abbott, “Having enough foster parents to meet the needs of … kids who are currently at the border or in large shelters is one of our biggest challenges.”

“The foster parents own or rent their own homes, and then we’re licensing them to parent our children in their care,” Abbott detailed. 

Palusky said that “it takes time to ramp up” the number of foster parents because of “processes” and “background checks” designed to ensure that “the child is going to be placed in a … safe and loving home.”

Palusky touted foster parenting as a “great opportunity for followers of Jesus to step up” and “be the hands of Jesus Christ to some of the most vulnerable out there.” 

He contended that “Sometimes as Christians … we talk a good game, but this is our time to put our faith into action.”

“So … we request that … followers of Jesus, this is our time … this is what we can tangibly do to show the love and compassion of Jesus Christ,” he said. 

Abbott and Palusky are among advocates who have long called for immigration reform. 

Palusky urged the federal government to address the reasons why many decide to come to the U.S. in the first place.

“This flow is not going to stop, and children will not stop coming unless we can invest in countries,” he asserted.

He specifically mentioned that most border crossers come from the Central American countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

“We would like to see the U.S. … invest in those countries … invest in police training and provide incentives for better governance to help with the … gangs because there are huge gang situations in Central America. There are ways that we can invest and help all those countries in Central America,” he explained. “We want people to be able to stay at home.”

Palusky said that the majority of people coming to the U.S. “don’t want to come.” 

“[T]hey don’t want to go on this dangerous journey,” Palusky contended. “They want to be able to stay in their home, [but] their homes just aren’t safe, and they’re not able to stay there.”

“I was down in Honduras several years, ago and I met with a father, and he was talking about making the journey to the United States, and I asked him ‘why?’” Palusky recalled. “He was talking about that he couldn’t afford to pay the gangs.”

The man was “scared to death” for the safety of his daughter, who the gangs threatened to exploit if he did not pay them as they desired.

In addition to working with unaccompanied minors and refugees, Bethany also continues to “recruit domestic foster homes” for children in the U.S. 

The well-being of American children living in foster homes has become a cause for concern after a nonprofit organization in Washington state allegedly forced a foster father and his family to vacate a house owned by the charity to make room for undocumented immigrants. 

Upon hearing the news, one of the foster children in the home had an anxiety attack requiring hospitalization, the foster father claimed. 

According to a statement from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, illegal immigration comes with a hefty price tag for his state’s taxpayers: nearly $1 billion per year. 

Paxton found that “Texans pay between $579 million and $717 million each year for public hospital districts to provide uncompensated care for illegal aliens.” He added that $152 million is needed “to house criminal illegal aliens for just one year” and between $62 million and $90 million is needed “to include illegal aliens in the state Emergency Medicaid Program.”

“Texans are hardworking and generous people, but the cost of illegal immigration is an unconscionable burden on the taxpayers of our great state. If we use the minimum estimated costs for services Texas provides to unlawfully present and undocumented aliens, taxpayers are shelling out an estimated $855 million every year,” Paxton maintained in a statement. “Texas will always welcome those who legally immigrate, but we cannot continue forcing taxpayers to foot the bill for individuals who skirt the law and skip the line.”

Paxton also found that “Texans pay between $31 million and $63 million to educate unaccompanied alien children each year.”

The education of unaccompanied immigrant children has caused particular outrage in San Diego, one of California’s largest cities, where teachers are given the option to volunteer to teach immigrant children in-person during spring break, according to Fox News

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