Jul 19, 2014 12:20 AM by Maddie Garrett

Southern Colorado Response to Immigration Crisis

A crisis that seems far from Colorado's borders could be coming to our doorstep, after Denver Human Services announced that they're applying for a three year federal grant to help house immigrant children that are flooding U.S. borders from Central America.

A similar situation isn't out of the question here in Southern Colorado. El Paso County spokesperson Dave Rose said the County doesn't have any plans to apply for a similar grant or house immigrant children. Rose said the County would only do so if the State's Human Services Department asked the County to do that.

Pueblo County Commissioner Sal Pace told News 5 that the board of commissioners hasn't even considered something like that yet, but added it's not totally off the table.

Thousands of children are coming by the bus load to the U.S. border, most of them alone. They are fleeing violence and worsening conditions in Central America.

"There are gangs that are taking on teens, coercing them to be a part of their violence and if not they are killing them," said Metro State Professor Dr. Liz Mendez-Shannon.

Mendez-Shannon explained that parents are so desperate, they're sending their children away, unaccompanied.

"The gangs, the death everyday, their choice is one from being hopeless to having hope," said Mendez-Shannon.

Numbers from the U.S. Customs Border Protection paint a stark picture. Between October 2012 and October 2013, most children detained for crossing the border illegally came from Mexico: 17,240 from Mexico, 8,068 from Guatemala, 6,747 from Honduras and 5,990 from El Salavador.

But since then, from October 2013 to June 2014, there's been a shift: 12,146 from Mexico, 12,670 from Guatemala, 15,146 from Honduras 11,436 from El Salavador. The number of children from Mexico has dropped, while those from the other three have significantly increased.

In those cases, where the immigrant minors are not from Mexico or Canada, the Office of Refugee Resettlement is responsible for them while they await deportation hearings.

"And so that often can take a very long time, it can take six months, a year, two years, and that's a major concern of people right now," said Corey Almond, Vice President of Immigration Family Services with Catholic Charities of Central Colorado.

Almond said while this crisis might not be on our doorstep quite yet, they're well aware of that potential and are preparing.

"Catholic Charities of Central Colorado is keeping an eye on what's happening in the humanitarian crisis at the border right now," said Almond

It's hitting closer to home than ever, after the recent move in Denver to look at housing some of those border children at the DHH Family Crisis Center there.

"But we do want to be prepared for anyway that we might be of help to people who are vulnerable to include our immigrant and refugee families," said Almond.

In terms of how Catholic Charities of Central Colorado would get involved, it's unclear because the need isn't here yet. However, Almond said the non-profit would look at its strength and resources and likely join forces with other charity organizations to aid in the crisis.

Other Catholic Charities organizations closer to the border are already deeply involved in the crisis, by providing services and housing to some of the unaccompanied children crossing the border. Almond said his organization already helps about 800 immigrants a year.



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