CEO of Shelter for Immigrant Kids: We're Working to Keep Them Safe

Monday, 09 Jun 2014 12:52 PM

By Melissa Clyne

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A San Antonio children’s shelter has been so inundated by unaccompanied minor children entering the United States illegally from Central America that the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement has awarded it a second contract to provide foster care, according to James Castro, CEO of San Antonio’s St. PJ’s Children’s Home.

Last year, St. PJ’s cared for more than 600 unaccompanied minors, Castro said on Newsmax TV’s "America’s Forum." The facility has 82 emergency shelter beds and the average length of stay is about 30 days, with some children staying up to five weeks.

The federal government signed a contract with St. PJ’s in April 2013, according to Castro, and in 2014 an additional contract was added to provide foster homes.

Story continues below video.

"We predict the numbers to continue to go up," Castro said. "As the numbers increased, the number of younger children arriving is happening, too. As young as 4, 5, 6 years old. [With] this additional foster-care home contract, we will be able to serve these younger children in a home-like setting with temporary foster parents."

Minor children fleeing to the United States from Central America — specifically Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala — in addition to those coming from Mexico, have overwhelmed the federal government.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection apprehended about 25,000 unaccompanied minors last year and, according to an internal memo, that figure is expected to jump to more than 90,000 this year and then 142,000 in 2015.

Honduras, where 60 percent of its 8 million resident live in poverty, has the highest murder rate in the world, according to The Associated Press, citing the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime. There are 90.4 homicides per 100,000 people.

Citing confidentiality, Castro declined to provide details about where the unaccompanied children’s parents are or why they fled their home countries.

When children arrive at St. PJ’s, they are provided with new clothing, food, medical and mental healthcare, as well as a "loving, nurturing environment."

Asked whether the excellent care provided once illegal immigrants arrive in the United States might be an incentive for people to enter the country illegally, Castro said St. PJ’s exists to provide care, not judgment.

Children crossing the border alone is a humanitarian crisis, he said, and Americans are responding with compassion.

"Places like St. PJ’s are responding in that way," he said. "We’re making sure we’re doing everything we can to make sure they’re safe."

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