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Unaccompanied Children Coalition
Saigon Plaza
November 18, 2014

When news of the unaccompanied children crossing the US-Mexico border was released, concerned citizens in Cleveland started meeting regularly to see how they could help. They formed the Children's Coalition and their regular meetings led to a community information night. Over 100 people attended the information session at Saigon Plaza at West 54th and Detroit to learn and speak about the Unaccompanied Children and Mothers.

Sister Rita Mary Harwood, SND gave a reflection on those who have come and began a prayer asking for their safety and their future.

Sister Rita Mary Harwood, SND

Sister Rita Mary Harwood, SND



Members of the coalition read a prayer or fact about the situation.

Children's Coalition reader

Children's Coalition reader

Children's Coalition reader

Children's Coalition reader

Sister Rita told how the Holy Father Pope Francis called for the move from a Globalization of Indifference to the Globalization of Charity to refugees and others.



Gia Hoa Ryan hosted the event at her Saigon Plaza facility. She told how we are all immigrants and how she sponsored over 40 family members to come from Vietnam to the US.

Gia Hoa Ryan

Gia Hoa Ryan



Coalition organizer Joe Meissner

Coalition and event organizer Joe Meissner

Sister Rita and attorney Camille Gill dedicated the evening to the memory of Sala Gembala the young Catholic Charities immigration attorney who recently passed away at a young age leaving a husband and 2 very small children.



Camille Gill, immigration attorney for Catholic Charities and Legal Services, gave a background of Catholic Charities Immigration and Legal Services. She spoke of the two groups who cross the border - the unaccompanied children and the families. Many were sent to Artesia and live in a jail environment.

Camille Gill

Camille Gill



Ms. Gill then gave information of what happens to children and families when they get to Ohio.

Camille Gill

Camille Gill



Jeff Stewart of the Immigrant Worker Project, whose agency has been extremely active, explained all of the hardships confronting these people and how they are constantly subject to hardships, gangs, drug cartel people, and others who prey upon them. He said the price to hire an assassination in Guatemala is $50 and in Mexico it is $125.

Jeff Stewart

Jeff Stewart



Stewart told about the lucrative drug business and how it was terrorizing families.



Stewart told how children and families risk their lives to cross the border and come to the US.



A young boy told the story of his family in Guatemala being beaten and bullied. He fears for his 13 year old sister who is still there.

Giovany from Guatemala

Giovany from Guatemala



A young mother named Beatrice told her story of how she and her family fled from Mexico because of the threats to her and her family from gangs and criminals. Her husband was even kidnapped. She is now in the US, wearing an ankle bracelet, and checks in with immigration frequently but is not in fear as she was in Mexico. Jeff Stewart of the Immigrant Worker Project translated.

young mother Beatrice and daughter

Beatrice and daughter



The group then discussed what action and advocacy they could initiate and assist.

Ken Kovach and Hiram deJesus

Ken Kovach and Hiram de Jesus


Postcards to Senate and House representatives were filled out, resources were shared and discussion were held.

Laura Fruscella and Mari Galindo

Laura Fruscella and Mari Galindo


Plans for future action and meetings were discussed.

The Unaccompanied Migrant Children Resource Kit from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, 10 Ways to welcome the Children at our border from the Catholic Legal Immigration Network and a Toolkit for advocating for the rights of unaccompanied children from the Jesuit Refugee Service were made available.

Sister Rita Mary Harwood, SND

Sister Rita Mary Harwood, SND


To learn more or to become involved, contact clevelandchildrenscoalition@yahoo.com.



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