Julie Flanders, Austin Region JFON Legal Director speaking at a White House prayer vigil on September 17
We gather here today with heavy hearts.
Many of us carry with us the stories of unaccompanied
minors who we personally have met, gotten to know, and have been forever changed by. I myself am forever changed by the hope and faith stories of those minors I have represented or had the pleasure of meeting, if for just a short time.
We call upon Congress and the President to remember they decided to provide special legal protections to minors through the 2008 Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act. The reasons were twofold: 1) to uphold the international law which forbids returning a victim into the
hands of its persecutor and 2) in recognition that children are the most vulnerable to trafficking, abuse, and persecution. Now for the first time in its history our government considers taking back a human rights position it had unanimously enacted. In the meantime, the lives of these children, our children, hang in the balance.
We pray that one day there will be a better solution than refuge in the United States. We pray that they may live in peace in their countries and with their families. But do not ignore what they are facing today.
Today we pray for a young girl in Honduras who has been threatened that if she does not join the gang and do their bidding, she and her entire family will be killed. Today we pray for a boy in El Salvador who is living in hiding because two rival gangs are fighting a war outside of his house.
Today we pray for a boy in Guatemala whose father is abusive, so he swore today to find a way out of Guatemala so that he can find a job and rescue his mother from the abuse.
Today we pray for the children journeying through Mexico right now, who are riding atop trains and begging for food, so that they might have a chance at a future which includes dignity and love.
Today we pray for those that have been kidnapped by cartels along the northern Mexico border, and for those who did not make it.
We do not forget about the perilous journey. So we stand for the children who have made it, who have arrived here, and who are living in our midst. We are humbled by their strength and courage.
I pray in my life to have one tenth of the courage that my clients have displayed in coming this far.
We are here today to say that we stand beside them, that they are not alone, and that we will not give up.
by Julie Flanders
Click here for the White House prayer vigil press release from Church World Service