The leaders of the Catholic Charities across Dubuque’s Archdiocese are anticipating a crisis in resettling Central American children in Iowa who’ve entered the U.S. illegally. Tracey Morrison directs the agency that covers 30 counties in northeast Iowa. She says they’re preparing for a looming disaster in finding homes and services for those children — and their families.

Morrison says, “What that looks like in these early stages of disaster is taking a look at what resources exist in the community.” While tens of thousands of undocumented children have crossed the southern border in recent months, dozens of them have been placed in Iowa, though in what cities is unknown.

Morrison says confidentiality prevents a complete analysis, but what is known is concerning. “We have unconfirmed reports that there are approximately 120 children, unaccompanied children and family members who have rejoined family members in Iowa,” she says. Reports in recent weeks said up to 140 of the children were already residing in Iowa.

Much debate is focused on the legal aspect of these border crossings, but she says the humanitarian needs of the vulnerable children and families should be non-debatable. Morrison says the crisis is abating only temporarily, as federal immigration authorities holding refugee children await the next steps.

“As these children are eventually released to join family members, whether that be originally in Iowa or if they resettle first in a different state and migrate to Iowa, I think the likelihood is there,” she says.

Dubuque’s Archdiocese is preparing for that by convening northeast Iowa community services now. The outreach will include: financial assistance to unaccompanied children and families who take refuge in the Archdiocese, financial assistance to agencies providing social services, coordination of immigration legal representation services to ensure due process is followed and connections to bilingual mental health services.

To support the goals, the 166 archdiocesan parishes will be encouraged to take up a special collection this weekend.