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Catholic nonprofit to aid ministries caring for families separated at the border

Immigrant families line up outside a Catholic ministry in McAllen, Texas. | Provided photo

A Chicago-based national Catholic nonprofit launched on Thursday a new fund to support ministries that provide services for immigrant families, particularly those separated upon apprehension due to the Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy.

Catholic Extension, which has called the Windy City home for more than a century, says the fund is intended to fund services provided by its partner ministries near the U.S.-Mexico border that are actively sheltering, defending, and caring for immigrants and their families.

The Family Reunification Fund will allow Catholic Extension to increase its support to resource-strapped immigrant ministries at this very critical moment when policy changes are creating even more hardship and uncertainty among immigrant families,” the organization said in a statement. “Church organizations have and will continue to play a significant role in helping families reunite, and Catholic Extension wants to ensure that they have the resources to do as much good as possible as the level of suffering increases.”

Related: Lawsuits detail sad stories of two immigrant boys held in Chicago, far from dads

Joe Boland, vice president of mission at Catholic Extension, says that his organization is part of a network of nonprofits that help immigrants and asylees once they are released or paroled by U.S. immigration agencies.

Boland, who visited ministries along the border earlier this week, says that the federal government has always relied on services provided by the Church and other nonprofits to deliver wraparound services for immigrants and asylees.

However, the Trump administration’s increased border enforcement and its flip-flop on family detention policy have increased the demand for services provided by the Church.

Related: Faith leaders condemn separation of families, say Trump’s exec order falls short

“What I’m hearing from leaders on the ground along the border is that the suffering has increased, the confusion has increased,” Boland said. “The Family Reunification Fund will help address those needs and aid people who were already a under great amount of duress to begin with.”

The fund is only the latest charitable effort by Catholic Extension directed at supporting immigrants. Last year, the organization says it provided nearly $2 million to border communities and their ministries to help finance direct humanitarian assistance to migrants on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.

Part of that $2 million came from a $175,000 check delivered by Cardinal Blase Cupich, head of the Archdioses of Chicago and chancellor of Catholic Extension, to Sacred Heart Catholic Church in McAllen, Texas, in August 2017. The money was used to help open a new humanitarian respite center in the border town.

Related: Some children taken from parents at U.S.-Mexico border are being held in Chicago

Since April, the Trump administration has directed border agents to criminally prosecute all immigrants caught attempting to illegally cross the border. That policy resulted in thousands of children being separated from their parents. The vast majority of those children have not been reunited with their parents and are now housed in shelters run by the Office of Refugee Resettlement across 17 states.

Last week, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops lambasted the family separation policy as “immoral” and urged the government to change course “to ensure that young children are not separated from their parents and exposed to irreparable harm and trauma.”

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump succumbed to public pressure and issued an executive order that bars immigration agents from separating families apprehended at the border. Instead, families will now be detained indefinitely.

The Justice Department is unsure whether it will continue to separate families due to a federal decree that mandates children should be released from immigration custody after 20 days. Children who were already separated from the parents at the border will not be grandfathered into the new policy.