LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

Meg Farris / Eyewitness News
Email: mfarris@wwltv.com | Twitter: @megfarriswwl

The immigration crisis is affecting Louisiana. More than 1,000 children and families from Central America have made their way to Louisiana, telling stories of being kidnapped and held for weeks, while smugglers demanded more money.

One local organization is working with them as they cross this state's border.

A team of people in New Orleans and Baton Rouge at Associated Catholic Charities is busy. The federal government says this year, nearly 1,100 children who crossed the Mexican border with smugglers have come to Louisiana to rejoin family or close friends.

'These families, these children are not in need of housing. They are not sending, the government
is not sending kids to the Greater New Orleans area to stay in detention centers or to stay at churches or non profits,' said Martin Gutierrez, the vice-president of Associated Catholic Charities.

He has met with 150 of them.

'They are not avoiding our authorities. You know, they are showing up and they are hoping to be caught by our authorities.'

He says most of the people who have come here are from Honduras, fleeing escalating violence and gangs that extort money. Children range from four to 17 years old, and they will be going to public schools here soon. Catholic Charities tells them where to get vaccinations. Gutierrez says the families want to go through the citizenship process and get jobs, but are in fear of going on camera to tell their stories.

'Because of their immigration status, they live in the shadows and they do not want to get that much publicity because of the obvious reasons of what would happen,' he explained.

The Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement about the situation today. And while the group said the U.S. needs comprehensive and compassionate immigration reform, it also said that the children who are fleeing violence and looking for safety here with family members, should be given primary consideration and access to freedom.

'Many will be able to apply for certain visas that are available under current laws. Many of them will not be able to qualify, so many of them will be deported,' said Gutierrez.

Catholic Charities will have several more orientations in August and September with legal advice for the Louisiana families.

For more information, call the immigration and refugee department at ACC at 504-457-3462.



Read or Share this story: http://www.wwltv.com/story/news/2014/09/05/14720248/