Miami, Fla., Feb 12, 2022 / 06:00 am (CNA).
The Archbishop of Miami has decried Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ comments this week belittling the plight of unaccompanied minors fleeing Central America for the United States.
“At Governor DeSantis’ Monday meeting with a few former Pedro Pan kids in Miami’s Museum of the Cuban Diaspora, he described any comparison of unaccompanied minors from Cuba in the early 60’s with those from Central America today as ‘disgusting’”, Archbishop Thomas Wenski said during a Feb. 10 press conference.
“This was a new low in the zero-sum politics of our divisive times. Children are children — and no child should be deemed ‘disgusting’ — especially by a public servant,” he continued.
DeSantis was joined at the Feb. 7 roundtable by several individuals who benefited from Operation Pedro Pan, a joint initiative between the Catholic Church and the U.S. government in the earrly 1960s that airlifted more than 14,000 unaccompanied minors from Cuba to the United States.
The initiative aimed to protect Cuban children from communist indoctrination.
Today’s unaccompanied minors — coming mainly from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador — are not much different from those from Cuba 60 years ago, Wenski wrote in a Jan. 14 column.
“The lack of solidarity of this group of former unaccompanied minors from Cuba with similarly situated children today was disappointing,” the archbishop said Feb. 10. “Even while recognizing the good care afforded them by Catholic Charities 60 years ago, they begrudge that same care being extended to migrant children today.”
“Msgr. Bryan O. Walsh, the revered ‘father’ of the Operation Pedro Pan children, is rolling over in his grave,” he continued.
Wenski has been an outspoken critic of DeSantis’ immigration policies, including a September executive order to suspend the issuance or renewal of licenses to shelters for unaccompanied immigrant minors.
The Florida Department of Children and Families issued a directive Feb. 10 to carry out the order.
The executive order and related legislation “would hurt vulnerable populations but also would end up hurting the citizens of Florida,” Wenski warned in his Jan. 14 column.
“The success of the Pedro Pan kids made possible by the freedom and opportunity of this great land makes clear that magnanimity rather than mean-spiritedness is a “best practice” in resolving our immigration challenges,” he said Feb. 10.