Compassion Reporting on poverty fighting and criminal justice

Border disorder

Compassion | Making sense of the U.S. response to migrant caravans
by Rob Holmes
Posted 11/21/18, 04:48 pm

Inbound traffic stood still between Mexico and the United States as Customs and Border Protection shut down the Tijuana–San Ysidro border crossing Monday.

At the busiest international gateway into the United States, border officials beefed up security fencing and stopped processing all northbound passengers and vehicles at San Ysidro, Calif., from 3:15 a.m. to 6:25 a.m. The effort came after reports in the wee hours that groups of migrants were planning to rush the port of entry and force their way in. Razor-sharp concertina wire and water-filled jersey barriers reinforced barricades already in place. The crossing normally handles 110,000 people per day, many who commute to work in California.

“CBP will not allow for the unlawful entry of persons into the United States, at or between our ports of entry,” Pete Flores, director of field operations in San Diego, said in a statement Monday. “Waiting until a large group of persons mass at the border to attempt an illegal crossing is too late for us; we need to be prepared prior to when they arrive at the border crossing.

More than 3,000 Central American migrants arrived in Tijuana this past weekend in the first of several caravans, whose members total as many as 10,000. As tensions mounted Sunday, more than 400 Tijuana residents, some waving Mexican flags, protested with chants of “Out! Out!” Though many Mexicans have aided migrants with bus rides and humanitarian aid during their northward journey from Honduras, some of the Tijuana protesters called the groups’ arrival an “invasion.”

In October, U.S. President Donald Trump came under criticism when he also referred to an “invasion” of migrants, as news videos showed groups of Central Americans surging across the border between Guatemala and Mexico last month on their way to the United States. Trump threatened to close the U.S. southern border and ordered thousands of troops to Texas, California, and Arizona to increase security.

Sparsely protected for most of its 2,000-mile length, the Mexican side of the border is completely controlled by criminal cartels, Jackson County, Texas, Sheriff Andy Louderback told The Epoch Times. Migrants may choose to travel in caravans because there is safety in numbers or to avoid the steep fees and forced drug trafficking that cartels might require to smuggle someone across the border.

As more migrant groups stream to the U.S. border, a federal judge in San Francisco this week temporarily blocked enforcement of Trump’s executive order to deny asylum to migrants who illegally enter the country. In his ruling, U.S. District Judge John S. Tigar said “failure to comply with entry requirements such as arriving at a designated port of entry should bear little, if any, weight in the asylum process.”

In Tijuana, Mayor Juan Manuel Gastélum said his city has received an “avalanche” it is not equipped to handle. He estimated large groups of migrants could remain for at least six months in the city as they wait to file asylum claims, according to KNSD-TV in San Diego. Gastelum has asked for help from the Mexican government to cope with the influx.

“The problem with exercising compassion in situations like these is … political agendas get in the way to fabricate a crisis,” Freedom and Virtue Institute founder Ismael Hernandez told me. The institute promotes poverty fighting that values humans as the image-bearers of God.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen testified on Capitol Hill in May that economic gains and falling homicide rates across Central America contradict the narrative that violence and fear are driving the surge of migrants to the United States. Instead, the booming U.S. economy and lax immigration policies are fueling the movement, she said.

“This march is not arising from a crisis that cannot be attended otherwise,” Hernandez said. “Compassion is to be there with the one who suffers, not to be there to be used by those who use that suffering as a weapon in political struggles.”

Associated Press/Photo by Seth Wenig Associated Press/Photo by Seth Wenig A photo of Katelyn McClure and Johnny Bobbitt at a news conference Thursday to announce charges against them and Mark D’Amico

A campaign of deception

A New Jersey prosecutor last week said a couple who raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for a homeless man through GoFundMe conspired with the man to share their heartwarming story in order to get rich. If found guilty, the three could face five to 10 years in prison for theft.

In November 2017, Kate McClure told the world that Johnny Bobbitt used his last $20 to put gas in her car when she was stranded along a New Jersey highway. In response, McClure and her boyfriend, Mark D’Amico, started a GoFundMe account, saying they wanted to raise $10,000 to help Bobbitt. The story went viral, and after GoFundMe fees, the couple ended up with more than $367,000.

But Bobbit said he only received $75,000 from the couple, and in August, he sued them for the rest. Bobbitt accused the couple of funding their lavish lifestyle with the money, and the Burlington County, N.J., prosecutor’s office ordered a raid on the couple’s house, where they found a new BMW and expensive jewelry and handbags.

Investigators reviewed more than 60,000 text messages and learned that soon after launching the campaign, McClure texted a friend to say the whole story was fake. They also found texts McClure sent D’Amico in March of this year saying they only had $10,000 left of the money from donors.

McClure’s lawyer said Monday that D’Amico and Bobbitt duped his client into participating in the scheme, despite what the text messages may have said.

McClure and D’Amico surrendered to police on Nov. 14 and were released pending their court date. Bobbitt was arrested Thursday in Philadelphia.

At a Thursday news conference, Burlington County prosecutor Scott Coffina said the three “conspired to pass off a fake, feel-good story that would compel donors to contribute to their cause, and it worked in a very big way. But it was fictitious and illegal, and there are consequences.”

GoFundMe said it would refund the money to donors, and Coffina urged the public not to let this case make them skeptical of helping people in need. —Charissa Crotts

Facebook/Homeless World Cup Facebook/Homeless World Cup A shot on goal during last week’s Homeless World Cup in Mexico City

A game for life

More than 500 players from 47 countries showed off their soccer skills in Mexico City last week at the 16th edition of the Homeless World Cup. The soccer event attracted up to 200,000 spectators to 400 games, which lasted a fast-paced 14 minutes each. Every player purported to have been homeless or suffered drug problems or mental illness.

“Sport has the power to do so much; football really can transform lives … have a huge impact on young people’s prospects,” Craig McManus, a coach for England, told The Guardian. McManus once played professionally, then became drug-addicted and homeless. He now works as a street football coach and senior development officer for Centrepoint, a U.K. youth homelessness charity that selected and sponsored the England team for this year’s competition. McManus said the tournament can help at-risk youth develop important social connections they can use to get out of poverty. “We’re not promising to transform people’s lives, but we are offering a wonderful experience, which can act as a leg up,” he said. “It can help them reconnect with the world and realize things really are possible.” —R.H.

Canada’s ballooning homelessness budget

The Canadian government unveiled this month its first national strategy for reducing homelessness. Grassroots anti-poverty groups will be able to get a share of funding from the $40 billion “Reaching Home” plan, which seeks to halve homelessness by 2030. The plan will allocate $2.2 billion over 10 years to 60 designated local authorities, doubling their budgets and increasing their say in how money is spent for local needs and services, according to

“The funding will now be more flexible, adapted to local priorities,” said Jean-Yves Duclos, federal minister of families, children and social development.

Duclos described the strategy as “community-first” and more decentralized, but much of the $40 billion will go to creating or repairing 400,000 government housing units. The federal government will also begin direct support of 300,000 needy families in 2020 as part of a new housing benefit. —R.H.

Rob Holmes

Rob is a graduate of the WORLD Journalism Institute’s mid-career course. Follow Rob on Twitter @SouthernFlyer.

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  • PaulC
    Posted: Thu, 11/22/2018 04:47 am

    Some have called Trump's deployment of troops a "political stunt" just before the elections.  I fail to see how that action is a stunt in view of the fact that he campaigned on building a wall and providing a secured border.  God grant our leaders true wisdom and the courage to use His wisdom in a responsible way.

  •  West Coast Gramma's picture
    West Coast Gramma
    Posted: Fri, 11/23/2018 12:04 pm

    The real problem is that our country's Congress has never come up with a plan to provide for an orderly influx of larger numbers of migrants at our borders. This is a fact of life in our changing world that will not go away. People in third world countries see the USA as a land of opportunity. They want to participate in that. The failure to provide for a reasonable number of immigrants to enter and be settled as participating and contributing members of our society leads to a crisis mentality and politicizing of what is actually a normal part of life. People want to come here. That's bad? Our government representatives need to quit fighting among themselves and find an orderly way to assimilate larger numbers of new immigrants than are currently permitted. Our current legal immigration caps are unrealistically small. There will always be pressure at the border because we ARE a great nation. We need to learn to constructively deal with this fact of life.

  • MD
    Posted: Sat, 11/24/2018 11:28 am

    The USA allows more immigrants,1.18 million in 2016, than all the other nations combined. To say that we don't have a good immigration policy in effect is erroneous. What we don't have is a strong border to keep the immigration numbers manageable. It is impossible for large numbers of people from disparent societies to merge with ours without time for each to assimilate and become Americans. We don't need enclaves of Iranians, Hondurans, Swiss, or Somalia, We need Americans from Iran, Honduras, etc. America is and has been a very generous and compassionate country and it is disingenuous for people to disparage our great country because we don't take in any and everybody who wants to come here. We cannot support all who want to come here anymore than any one of you can support 1- or 20 families in your own home. We can do more by helping them in their own country, and not just by sending them money.