Recently, the Trump administration announced its latest measures in its crackdown against immigrants to the United States, and this time, they are targeting children who are already without their parents. They want to cancel English lessons, legal assistance programs and even soccer games for unaccompanied migrant children who are currently in the custody of the United States.
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, those basic programs are “not directly necessary for the protection of life and safety.”
However, the Christian relief organization Bethany Christian Services—which is contracted by the government to care for about 200 unaccompanied minors across five states—says that they will continue to offer the service even if funding is pulled. In a statement to Christianity Today, they said that they will privately fund “recreational or educational activities for unaccompanied minors in our care.”
“These services are a child’s basic right and vitally important to the health and development of these children,” Dona Abbott, the vice president for refugee and immigrant services at Bethany Christian Services told CT. “We’re really, really hopeful that Congress will enact the supplemental funding requests …Our country has always prioritized the needs of children. They’re not the cause of the problem.”
2018 saw a major spike in immigrant children coming into the immigration system as the Trump administration enacted it’s “zero tolerance” family separation policy. Bethany actually enjoys some close connections to the White House. Until 2018, their senior vice president for child and family services was Brian DeVos, who is the cousin of U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ husband. Betsy DeVos’ sister in law, Maria DeVos, served on Bethany’s board, and the DeVos family foundation has donated more than $6 million to Bethany between 1998 and 2016.
Though most of the children Bethany helps care for are eventually placed into the foster care system, the organization also maintains group homes for children. When asked specifically about educational and recreation services, Abbott told CT, “We can’t imagine a world where children shouldn’t have access to that.”