Catholic Charities: "The Esperanza Project" - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

Catholic Charities: "The Esperanza Project"

Once in the U.S., Catholic Charities helps the parents to enroll their children into schools and keep court dates to ensure that the children remain documented and legal. (Source: WAFB) Once in the U.S., Catholic Charities helps the parents to enroll their children into schools and keep court dates to ensure that the children remain documented and legal. (Source: WAFB)
BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) -  Children continue to flee to the United States, from Mexico, to reunite with family and get away from a country where some say they are faced with difficult situations.  Catholic Charities of Baton Rouge says they have gotten hundreds of these families, who are asking for help.  They've now launched a program called, Louisiana Esperanza Project, to protect these refugee children.  But they need donations.

"We're trying to raise money to expand our legal representation of them," said David Aguillard, the executive director at Catholic Charities.

Aguillard says they are trying to add attorney's to their refugee services because there's a backup.  

In the past, he says, they would only see 20 of these cases per month.  He says now they are seeing 100 cases per month.  In July they had 120.

And they don't just serve Louisiana.

"We're the only agency that does that basically from Tampa, Florida over to Houston."

Aguillard says when the children get to the border, a border patrol agent takes them and does background checks before they are cleared into the United States, under the supervision of a sponsor.  Those sponsors are usually a parent or family member who is already in the U.S.

"One case, we have a girl - she's 17-years-old.  She was kidnapped while she was in Mexico.  Her mother paid $4,000 ransom and the kidnappers still wouldn't let her go.  One night the kidnappers had too much to drink, she saw her opportunity to escape.  She grabbed some other children being kept in a warehouse and they ran for the border," said Aguillard.

Once in the U.S., Catholic Charities helps the parents to enroll their children into schools and keep court dates to ensure that the children remain documented and legal.  Those cases can take a while.  Right now, Aguillard says the earliest court dates are being scheduled for 2016.

The attorney's with Catholic Charities handle 10 cases a year.  But with the number of children crossing the border, they expect that number will also increase.  Which is why they are asking for donations, to reaise money to expand their legal services.

"We're also asking attorneys to volunteer.  We want to expand our training pro bono attorneys, working with law schools to offer continuing education for attorneys."

Aguillard says they also need attorneys trained in immigration law and custody hearings.

"We're not getting involved in should they be here, should they not be here.  They are here.  Let's take care of them while they're here.  Make sure they stay legal, stay documented," said Aguillard.

To donate or read more about Louisiana Esperanza Project, click here.

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