A group of evangelical leaders and megachurch pastors who serve as informal advisers to the Trump administration on Friday visited about 165 immigrant children who are being housed at a foster facility in Virginia and brought with them inflatable water rides, a Liberty University soccer clinic and lunch.
Immigrant children being cared for at the Youth for Tomorrow residential campus in Bristow, Virginia, were treated to fun and games and were also given backpacks, duffle bags, new soccer balls, toiletries and school supplies courtesy of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas.
Prestonwood Pastor Jack Graham was joined by Bishop Harry Jackson, Pastor Jentezen Franklin, Pastor Paula White and evangelical author Johnnie Moore in spending the day with the children at Youth for Tomorrow’s 215-acre residential campus.
Youth for Tomorrow is one of over 113 foster facilities nationwide that have partnered with the federal government to take care of undocumented immigrant children while they’re processed and connected with family members in the United States or placed in foster care.
“You see the smiles on the kids’ faces and already their lives are turning around, it is clear,” Graham, whose church has been involved in trying to serve migrant children in Texas and other states, told The Christian Post in an interview on Friday.
According to Graham, most of the children at the campus entered the United States as unaccompanied minors from Central American countries — most predominantly Nicaragua and Honduras. He added that most children are held at the facility for an average of about two months.
In speaking with the staff at the campus, Graham said that around 90 percent of the immigrant children there were trafficked into the country in some way.
“There are a lot of sad stories about how they’re here and why they’re here, the violence in which they came and their families,” Graham, a former Southern Baptist Convention president, said. “The coyotes who run for the drug cartels are very involved in this. That is the story that needs to be told.”
“Most of these children were sent here either by parents or family or they came as a result of the trafficking movement that is coming out of these countries,” he added. “It is a very bad situation. It is the trafficking that we need to stop.”
Graham asserted, though, that it’s still the call of the Church to help take care of these children even if they arrived in the country illegally.
For many of the children fleeing violence and gangs in their home countries, Graham said the treatment they’re receiving at Youth for Tomorrow is the best treatment they have ever received in their young lives.
While there has been much said in the media about the conditions in which some children are being held in detention, Graham assured that the children at Youth for Tomorrow are kept in homes — there are several on the large campus — not cages.
Graham stressed that the property was “beautiful” and “first-class.”
“I didn’t see one downcast face. We served them lunch. I looked into the eyes of almost every one of them,” Graham said. “They almost all have an upward look. They are positive. They are so glad to be loved like this and they are loved. This thing of portraying kids as being put in cages and treated inhumanely, that is not what I saw. I saw just a fantastic, loving outreach to the children who are here.”
In addition to providing medical care, clothing, food, education and other needs to the children, Youth for Tomorrow also offers a voluntary chapel service a few times a week. Graham said that he was told that almost all of the immigrant children attend even though they’re not required to.
“There is a clear witness of the Christian faith here in both work and deeds,” Graham said.
Graham, whose church was given a $50,000 donation by President Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, in its quest to serve migrant children, told CP that he does envision an ongoing partnership of sorts with Youth for Tomorrow and other organizations that serve immigrant children in this way.
“They are going to be building more housing in the future,” Graham said of Youth for Tomorrow. “Some of us, will no doubt, be helping them do that.”
The faith leaders were joined on the visit by officials from the Department of Health and Human Services as well as Jennifer Korn, the deputy director for the White House Office of Public Liaison.
Moore told CP that a similar event to one that was held in Virginia was held at another immigrant foster facility in Miami on Friday.
While at the campus in Virginia, Moore explained that the group of evangelical leaders at one point participated in a phone call with Ivanka Trump.
The evangelical leaders’ engagement with immigrant care facilities comes as many have criticized the Trump administration’s illegal immigration policies, especially in terms of the increase in the separation of immigrant children from their families detained at the border.
The administration is in the process of reuniting the 2,300 children who were separated from their families. Trump issued an executive order in June ending the practice of separating immigrant children from their parents who are being held in detention centers. A federal court also ordered the administration to return the children who were separated from their families. The administration could not meet an initial court-ordered deadline but was granted an extension.
Evangelical leaders were among the many who spoke out against the practice of separating immigrant children from their families.