Andrew Bodden, MCC East Coast South Florida program and diverse constituency coordinator, left, provides immigration advice and coordinates legal assistance for South Florida Anabaptist churches and their pastors, including Pastor Valentin Fontanez of Centro de Adoración Refugio Eterno Brethren in Christ church.
(Miami) -- Andrew Bodden lives and works in Miami, but his three sisters and two brothers still live in Honduras, along with at least eight nieces and nephews. He says they often tell him how unsafe they feel in their home country, noting one of his sisters says she was robbed three times in one day.
Bodden told his story as one Berks County children’s home is housing kids who entered the United States illegally, while workers at another in Cumberland County are being trained as a potential site for more as the country deals with an influx of unaccompanied minors from Central America.
Bodden, who came to the U.S. in 2001 to work for the Lancaster County-based Mennonite Central Committee, says police often are outgunned by gangs.
"People are scared and also do not know what to do because the authorities are not responding as they are supposed to respond."
He adds the gangs have extended their reach too.
"Now they using as a strategy, to engage with 7-, 8- or 9-year-old kids to force them or to push them to join the gang at that age."
Bethany Children's Home in Womelsdorf, Berks County is housing 32 children who crossed the U.S. - Mexico border for up to 30 days, and the United Methodist Home for Children in Cumberland County expects children to start arriving in August.
Both say taking care of the children in a safe and nurturing space, no matter where they are from, is key to their mission.
Bethany Children's Home issued this statement:
Bethany Children’s Home will begin providing services the middle of June to 32 children. Bethany’s certified staff will provide classroom education, basic health care, socialization/recreation, mental health services, family reunification and case management.
The goal of the program is to facilitate safe and timely reunification with family members or sponsors that can care for the child’s physical and mental well-being within a 30 day time period.
This program is an extension of Bethany’s 151 year history of providing shelter and residential services for abused, neglected and abandoned children.
United Methodist Home for Children also put out this statement through a press officer:
The United Methodist Home for Children has been approved to receive an Urgent and Compelling Grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service to provide temporary shelter services to unaccompanied alien children beginning August 2014.
We understand the issue of immigration has raised many questions nationally. However, in staying true to the Home’s history and mission, we are committed to providing a safe and caring environment for any children who, through no fault of their own, are in desperate need of help while explorations are being made for their future.
We will also be undergoing training in Washington, DC in the next few weeks, and when we have more information on the status of the children and the program, we will follow up with you.
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