SAGINAW — In addition to the joint statement issued with other faith leaders, calling for the compassionate treatment of young children migrating to the United States, the Most Rev. Joseph R. Cistone, Bishop of Saginaw, offers the personal statement below. In the statement, Bishop Cistone shares his own experience of the situation of young people in Central America and calls upon people of faith and good will to put aside political difference and focus on the needs of the children.
“For so many of us, our hearts are torn as we watch news reports of unaccompanied children and young people migrating to the United States. Caught in the middle of strong emotions, hostile attitudes, and opposing political positions are vulnerable children who have survived a dangerous journey. The migration of these children through Central America and Mexico often leads to severe trauma and exploitation causing violence, mistreatment, family separation, and, in some circumstances, death.
“For me personally, it calls to mind my recent visit to El Salvador this past February. On behalf of Catholic Relief Services, as a member of the Board of Directors, I had the opportunity, together with other bishops and lay people, to visit San Salvador and its outlining regions. I witnessed firsthand the disturbing circumstances of children, some as young as five and six years old, seeking refuge in street gangs in order to escape the dysfunctional situation and even violence within their own homes. The gangs provide food, shelter and protection. However, the children pay a terrible price for membership in these gangs, finding themselves involved in a world of drugs and crime, creating their own level of fear and violence against others.