Jesus Christ should be a role model to people working with undocumented alien children from Central America, says the director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Refugee Resettlement.
"Jesus was a refugee, and that's a very good reminder to all of us," Eskinder Negash told the four-day U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Migration Conference in Washington, D.C., according to the Catholic News Service.
More than 50,000 migrant kids have entered the country illegally from Mexico since last October, many of them from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. They are being called refugees because they have fled their homeland out of fear for their lives from drug gangs and other criminal elements.
Under U.S. law, the kids who come from a country that is not contiguous, such as Mexico and Canada, are handed over to the resettlement agency (ORR) to be placed with family members or housed elsewhere until they face deportation hearings.
"I happen to believe in the refugee program, not just because Jesus was a refugee — because I was also myself a refugee," Negash, who fled from Ethiopia into Sudan in 1980 after a Soviet-backed military coup. "Yes, I was once described as an alien myself, if that's a proper term to use."
He told the conference, co-hosted by the Catholic Legal Immigration Network and Catholic Charities USA, that people working with refugees "can only be successful and have a long impact on people when we actually start seeing ourselves as the people we want to serve."
Negash's agency, which processes 70,000 cases a year, is under the microscope because of the sudden influx of illegal minors. But he says that people should be more concerned about the immigrant children than the controversy surrounding the border crisis, CNS reported.
"So I believe it's very, very important we do that self-examination and do it quickly and see ourselves with the people we want to serve."
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