Los Angeles clergy celebrate Mass for unaccompanied migrant children

Long Beach Convention Center Long Beach Convention Center, one of the shelters for unaccompanied migrant children/ Debbie Eckert/Shutterstock

Catholic clergy in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles have been celebrating Masses this month for hundreds of unaccompanied migrant children housed in large temporary shelters. 

Beginning on May 9, priests have offered private weekend Masses for migrant children at the Long Beach Convention Center and Pomona Fairplex, after the archdiocese secured permission from the federal government, Angelus News reported.

“My heart breaks for what these children have been through, and I want to help them any way I can. Many [of the youth] have been through difficult times,” Los Angeles auxiliary Bishop David O’Connell told Angelus News.

Archbishop Jose Gomez is scheduled to celebrate Mass at the Long Beach shelter on Sunday, May 30. 

Unaccompanied minors began arriving at the emergency shelters in Southern California in April; the shelters were set up by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services following a surge of migrants to the U.S.-Mexico border. 

The temporary federal shelters are housing the minors while they await custody of sponsors or family members in the United States. At least 80 family reunifications have taken place so far, officials say. 

The Fairplex can hold up to 2,500 children, while the Long Beach convention center has a capacity of 1,000 for migrants.

The archdiocese reportedly had worked for weeks to secure permission to celebrate Sunday Masses for the migrant children.

“It’s a part of every person’s right to practice their faith. So it’s commendable that the federal government is acknowledging the need to practice their faith,” said Isaac Cuevas, director of immigration and public affairs for the archdiocese. 

Confidential data obtained by the Associated Press shows the number of migrant children in government custody more than doubled from April to May this year. In April border authorities encountered 18,890 unaccompanied minors, an all-time high. 

Earlier this month, federal officials confirmed that over four dozen migrant children were being treated for COVID-19, most being asymptomatic or having mild symptoms.

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