Yearning to Breathe Free

“I DON’T BLAME the Border Patrol. I blame our country,” Sister Norma Pimentel told Rep. Jim McGovern on a hot afternoon in McAllen, Texas, last August.

“It’s like a burning building,” explained Pimentel, director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, “and we’re sending them back into it.”

Pimentel was describing the U.S. policy of deporting Central American refugees back to their home countries, while Rep. McGovern (D-Mass.) nodded in agreement. He had just visited the Border Patrol central processing facility, and Pimentel was leading him on a tour of the humanitarian respite center at Sacred Heart Catholic Church.

The difference was striking: At the processing facility, children were detained in what McGovern described as “cages”; at the respite center, Catholic Charities staff and volunteers provided food, showers, clothing, medical exams, and an air-conditioned place for refugees to wait for a bus ride to meet family members living in the U.S.

Because of large influx of refugees last summer, initially those who could verify that they had relatives already living in the U.S. were processed by Border Patrol and released with papers allowing them to travel by bus to reunite with family, where they would await an immigration hearing—and possible deportation. But after being dropped off at the McAllen bus station by the Border Patrol, many waited for hours for their bus to arrive—often with nothing but the clothes on their back and papers in hand.

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N.J. Gay Conversion Therapy Ban Challenged in Federal Court

N.J. Gov. Chris Christie in March, L.E.MORMILE / Shutterstock.com

N.J. Gov. Chris Christie in March, L.E.MORMILE / Shutterstock.com

New Jersey’s newly enacted ban on gay-to-straight conversion therapy for minors violates a licensed therapist’s obligation to “respect the rights of clients to make decisions,” according to a federal lawsuit filed by a Christian counselors group and professionals who use the practice.

The law, signed by Gov. Chris Christie on Aug 19, bars any licensed therapist, psychologist, social worker, or counselor from using therapies to change sexual orientation of children under age 18. Offenders jeopardize their licensed status under the new law, which does not apply to clergy or anyone who is not licensed by the state.

New Jersey is the second state in the nation to ban therapy that purports to change a child’s sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual. California enacted the first ban, but Liberty Counsel, a national religious-based legal and public policy group, filed an injunction it before it took effect earlier this year. A judge overseeing the case heard arguments in April and has not issued a decision.

Religious Leaders Press Village Voice on Sex Ads

Stan Wiechers, Flickr

Stan Wiechers, Flickr

Religious leaders on Thursday (March 29) delivered more than 230,000 signatures to the office of Village Voice Media, demanding the company shut down the adult advertising section on its website, Backpage.com, where advertisements for sex with underage minors have appeared.

"As a mother and as a member of the clergy, I am outraged by Village Voice Media's continued refusal to shut down Backpage.com's adult section, even after being confronted with evidence that girls and teens have been advertised for sex on the site," said the Rev. Katharine Henderson, president of Auburn Seminary and a leader of the petition.