Serving Migrant Children in Dallas, Texas
On January 20, 2021, the advent of a new U.S. President introduced a new era of border crossings. People from south of the United States-Mexico border began making their way to Texas, pushing through the Northern Triangle (Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador) through Mexico and then to our borderlands, as well as other U.S.-Mexico border points. People-caravans began arriving in late January and early February, reaching a fever pitch with more than 100,000 detained in February alone. The first wave of migrant teens arrived in Dallas on March 14, 2021, making their temporary home at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Dallas Convention Center. The Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) was the first agency to make preparations for the arrival of busses from the border. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) followed with logistics support and general management of the care of more than 2,300 teen migrants.
In March 2021, I contacted Dave Woodyard, CEO of Catholic Charities of Dallas to inquire how Buckner International might be of assistance. I also called the office of Bishop Edward J. Burns, Dallas Diocese. Dave Woodyard indicted the priority needs were Spanish-speaking volunteers, spiritual support by way of priests and pastors, and basic humanitarian aid. I agreed to engage Buckner staff to provide for basic needs when the call came for additional support. Phil Brinkmeyer, Senior Executive Director for Buckner Aid, Volunteers, Missions, and Camp Buckner became our lead contact in this effort. Buckner donors and supporters responded, as well as people in the community to serve teen migrants. We set up a link with a list of potential humanitarian aid resources and an address to deliver goods. Trusted World joined the humanitarian aid effort locally.
I was privileged to tour the KBH Convention Center in Dallas with Dave Woodyard after Palm Sunday to gain a visual perspective. Most of the youth seemed to originate from Guatemala and Honduras. The operation was highly organized and orderly with ESL classes, medical care, telephone contact with family, and even a small place to play a pick-up game of soccer. These teens will remain until the end of June until they are united with family members or assigned to host families until a court appearance is required. Listen to this interview for ways to help.
Buckner follows the example of Jesus by serving vulnerable children and families in the Northern Triangle (Guatemala, Honduras) and Mexico through Family Hope Centers to help stabilize families in their communities so their only alternative for survival is not a trek to the north. If they arrive in Texas, we serve them here too. Our motto is “Hope Shines Here,” and “Aquí Brilla la Esperanza.” This is what Jesus taught us to do.