BOB ABERNETHY, host: Congress and the Obama administration continued debating ways to address the migrant crisis along the U.S. southern border, and especially how to deal with more than 50,000 unaccompanied minors awaiting processing. Faith-based groups are also trying to help, but that’s not easy. Joining me now is Kevin Eckstrom, editor-in-chief of Religion News Service. Kevin, welcome.


ABERNETHY: What’s going on right now, and what are faith-based groups doing?

ECKSTROM: Well, there’s a number of things going on, and some groups are collecting articles for these kids; juice boxes, backpacks, snacks, and coloring books. But it’s not like your typical disaster where churches show up with chainsaws or heavy loading equipment or something to clean up after a hurricane or a tornado. This is much more complicated, because the government is actually in charge of these people, and so government rules apply. So you can’t just show up and say, “Here’s a box of toys for kids.” People basically have to get in line to fill out applications and go through a vetting process to make sure they’re actually equipped to be able to help these kids and especially their long-term needs.

ABERNETHY: But the kids are now in government control in military bases or…

ECKSTROM: Schools…

ABERNETHY: …schools, and slowly they’ll be going through the immigration courts to decide whether they go back or whether they can stay here, and how long is that going to take?

ECKSTROM: Well, it could take several months up to a year. There are two immediate questions. One is the political, legal solution. What happens to these people? And the government will figure that out. The longer term sort of humanitarian question of how do we care for them—these families are probably going to have to wait for upwards of a year while they’re here to get fully processed to have their immigration hearings. So the government is looking for families and institutions to take these people in, but that’s not necessarily a simple thing. I mean the kids are going to need to be enrolled in schools. They’re going to need to be driven places, and sometimes you’ll have a whole family. If you have, say, an empty convent that you want to fill with these families, how do local zoning laws apply to group houses and things like that? So it’s a very complicated, not very easy situation to figure out.

ABERNETHY: Kevin Eckstrom, editor-in-chief of Religion News Service. Many thanks.

Responding to the Migrant Crisis

How are religious groups trying to help children caught at the US border? “It’s not like your typical disaster, where churches clean up after a hurricane or a tornado,” says Kevin Eckstrom, editor-in-chief of Religion News Service. “This is much more complicated.”