Category Archives: USA

‘We all need to be a little more like Kendrick’: Friends and family remember STEM hero

HeroKendrick Castillo and his father, John Castillo. Courtesy: Knights of
Columbus #4844 via Facebook

– A funny, selfless, and kind kid who loved tinkering with his car, goofing around with his friends, and above all, serving others, whether at Knights of Columbus pancake breakfasts or in robotics class – this was the Kendrick Castillo that friends and family gathered to remember at a celebration of his life on May 15 at Cherry Hills Community Church.

“Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat, but if it dies, it produces much fruit,” Fr. Javier Nieva, pastor of St. Mary’s in Littleton, Colo., said at the ecumenical celebration. The quote, from Jesus, is in the Gospel of John.

“We celebrate fruits today,” Nieva said. “Not death (but the) fruits of his life.”

Kendrick laid down his life for others not only “in the moment of dying, but in his love for his family, his passion for service, his love for the truth” and helping others, Nieva said.

Kendrick Castillo, 18, gave his life to protect his friends when he jumped into the line of fire to stop a school shooter on May 7, according to witnesses. Castillo was the only casualty in the shooting at STEM high school in Highlands Ranch, Colo.; eight other students were injured in the incident.

On a sunny Wednesday afternoon in May, friends and family packed Cherry Hills Community Church to remember a funny and kind friend, parishioner and son who was always smiling and helping others. On display at the church were some things representative of Kendrick’s hobbies and passions: a kayak, a red blazer he wore while ushering at Notre Dame parish, robotics and engineering paraphernalia.

Former teachers and friends from school took to the stage one by one to share a favorite memory of Kendrick, to extol his virtues and thank his parents.

Joseph Nguyen, a family friend of the Castillos and a member of the Catholic charitable group the Knights of Columbus, presented Kendrick’s parents, John and Maria Castillo, with a plaque that honored Kendrick as a full member of the Knights.

“Kendrick is forever a brother within the Knights of Columbus,” Nguyen said, presenting a plaque that came from members throughout the country and the world.

“His service with the Knights, in everything he did, there was a smile on his face,” Nguyen said, noting that Kendrick and his father John had logged  a combined 2,600 hours of community service with the Knights.

“I remember Kendrick for the just young man he was, the one who imitated Christ’s self-sacrificing love so that others might live and be safe,” he said. “Kendrick loved people, he loved his Church, and he loved his God.”

Charlene Molis, the principal of Notre Dame Catholic School, which Kendrick attended from pre-K to 8th grade, remembered a loving child who “is certainly proof that one person can make a difference.”

Molis said she saw Kendrick’s caring nature on the very first day of preschool, when he noticed a little boy crying across the room.

“The little boy was missing his mom,” Molis said. “Kendrick walked over, put his arm around him and told him it was going to be ok.”

She remembered a student who “respected everyone and always did his best.” She remembered that he liked to get dressed up for school plays as a cowboy or a pilgrim, but when it came to all-school Masses, he donned a three-piece suit.

She remembered his ability to figure out “anything technology related,” and how by the time he was a 6th grader, he became a sort of pseudo IT technician for his teachers, helping them with computer issues. She remembered his bright smile, quick wit, and willingness to collaborate with his teachers in playing jokes on his fellow classmates.

Most of all, she remembered how he served others.

“He seemed to be happiest serving others, and he did this humbly,” she said, whether it was working in the background to put on the school talent show, making and serving pancakes for the Knights of Columbus, DJing school dances, leading the computer club, or serving on the student council.

“He was the first to arrive and last to leave at school and church functions,” she said.

“He was the epitome of a young Christian man, and an inspiration to everyone who was lucky enough to know him,” Molis said. “We love you, Kendrick. We are all better people for having known him.”

Jordan Monk, Kendrick’s best friend, said they first met as freshmen in an engines class in high school. When it became clear that Kendrick knew the most about engines in the class, Monk jumped at the chance to become his lab partner.

“Our friendship started purely out of survival instincts,” Monk said. “I wanted an A in that class, and found the best way to do so.”

But after just one class period, “I like many others knew there was something special about Kendrick. I’d figured we’d get along just fine as lab partners, but I had no idea he’d have such a profound impact on my life.”

The two bonded over lab projects and mishaps, and soon became best friends.

“Teachers had a love-hate relationship with us,” Monk said. “They loved us because of the joy and laughter that we brought to class, but that joy and laughter was apparently distracting for some students.”

When they weren’t in school, Monk spent hours with Kendrick in his backyard, where they would tinker on mini-bikes or golf carts, and on their cars once they got their licenses.

“We changed brakes and oil…and detailed our cars almost religiously,” Monk said. “Whenever I was able to drag (Kendrick) to our school dances, we always had the two cleanest rides.”

Monk recalled a favorite memory with Kendrick, when they dressed up as the main characters from the movie Wayne’s World, and drove around with their car tops down, fake mullets flowing in the wind, and Queen blasting on the radio.

“The only sound you could hear over Bohemian Rhapsody was our laughter,” Monk recalled. He said he and Kendrick often were up to things that could be considered weird, but they didn’t care, “because we had the time of our lives doing it.”

At the end of the celebration, Kendrick’s father, John, addressed the crowd. He thanked the school and church communities and first responders for their care and support, and said he has “felt the love of thousands” in the days since his son’s death.

“If we had to describe him a certain way, first it would be love, the love for anybody he met,” John said. “I mean anybody. He was compassionate. If you were walking down the street and fell, he’d walk over to make sure you’re ok.”

“There’s risk in love,” he added. “There’s risk in being hurt, in rejection. Kendrick knew all of these things and he never wavered. He knew right from wrong, and we all do.”

John remembered Kendrick as a son who valued relationships over physical things, who cherished hunting trips with his dad and grandpa and loved going to animated movies with his mom.

“We all really really love Kendrick, and to carry on his life’s message, we need to be more like him,” John said, whether that’s helping someone who is struggling or including someone who is lonely.

“I always knew he was a gift and a hero, he was filled up with the good stuff” of life, he noted, like faith and love.

He encouraged those present to “walk your faith like Kendrick did,” recalling how his son would take off his hat and bless his food before eating at Taco Bell without caring what people might think.

“It’s not difficult,” he said. “We just have to love.”

Kendrick’s funeral and burial will be at the end of this week. The details are kept private at the request of the family.

16-year-old migrant boy dies in US government custody in Texas

imageMinors are seen as they exercise in a common area at the Homestead shelter for unaccompanied migrant children in Homestead, Florida [File: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

A 16-year-old unaccompanied migrant boy from Guatemala who fell ill has died while in the custody of the United States government.

Officials said on Wednesday the boy was transferred to an Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) shelter in Texas on April 20.

“Upon arrival to the shelter the minor did not note any health concerns,” Evelyn Stauffer, a spokeswoman for the Administration for Children and Families, which oversees ORR, said in a statement to local media.

But the next morning, he had fever, chills and a headache and was taken to a hospital, where he was treated and released that day.

He didn’t improve and was sent to another hospital, where he was transferred to a third facility, a children’s hospital. He died on Tuesday.

Stauffer said the cause of death is under review.

‘No denying that this is a pattern’

Since 2015, two other unaccompanied children have died in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Last year, two accompanied children also died while in custody at the border in separate incidents.

Tuesday’s death comes as a surge of unaccompanied children and migrant families cross the US-Mexico border.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus on Wednesday called for the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services to investigate the child’s death.

Beto O’Rourke, a Texas politician and presidential candidate for the 2020 Democratic nomination, tweeted that he was “very saddened” by the news.

“We must focus on the wellbeing of these children above any other concern. If we sacrifice humanity for security, we’ll lose both,” he added.

And Families Belong Together, a coalition of hundreds of organisations fighting to keep families together, called the death a “pattern”.

“Another migrant child has tragically died in federal custody. There is no denying that this is a pattern,” the group tweeted. “Refugee and asylum-seeking children hoping for better lives are dying at the hands of this administration. Our coalition demands accountability.”

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/05/16-year-migrant-boy-dies-government-custody-texas-190501212056856.html

 

US-Mexico border official says migrant crisis ‘at breaking point’

US-Mexico photoCentral American migrants are seen inside an enclosure in El Paso after crossing the border between Mexico and the United States illegally and turning themselves in to request asylum

The US-Mexico border has reached “breaking point”, US officials say, amid an “unprecedented” surge in migrant numbers.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said it is “a matter of time” before tragedy strikes at one of their facilities.

More than 13,000 migrants have been taken into custody along the border just this week, he said.

Most of the migrants entering the US are families or unaccompanied children.

“On Monday and Tuesday, CBP started the day with over 12,000 migrants in our custody,” Mr McAleenan said at a news conference on Wednesday.

“As of this morning, that number was 13,400. A high number for us is 4,000. A crisis level is 6,000. 13,000 is unprecedented.”

During previous immigration surges, many of those seeking entry were single adults, the commissioner said.

But because these are family units and children, they cannot be easily repatriated and instead, are “almost guaranteed to be released to remain in the US indefinitely”.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) still do not have the capacity to detain families and children, officials said.

Mr McAleenan said his agency expects 40,000 children to enter CBP custody in March after entering the US unaccompanied, “in the hands of violent and callous smugglers”.

“We are doing everything we can to simply avoid a tragedy in a CBP facility,” he added. “But with these numbers, with the types of illnesses we’re seeing…I fear that it’s just a matter of time.”

CBP officials are on pace to manage over 100,000 migrants this month – the highest in a month since 2008.

The agency has now redirected 750 agents from their roles at ports of entry to instead support the “humanitarian mission”.

“We have in some sectors an average of 40% of our Border Patrol agents all fully engaged in just the care, transport, and processing of migrants.”

CBP is asking for assistance from other federal agencies including the National Guard and Department of Defence to increase the capacity to process migrants.

Mr McAleenan has also asked for immediate legislative action from Congress so the agency can detain families together. as well as for the government to fix issues in the legal process for asylum seekers.

He noted that it often takes two to five years for asylum seekers to see a judge, and only around 10 to 15% of migrants actually have a legitimate claim.

 

 

 

 

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-47736603

Amid continued Midwest flooding, Catholic groups step up to help

Nebraska photoFlooding in Bellevue, Nebraska, March 2019. Credit: Aspects and Angles / Shutterstock.

By Michelle La Rosa

Omaha, Neb., (CNA)- As devastating flood waters continue to rise in parts of the Midwest, Catholics are working to raise funds for both short-term aid and long-term rebuilding efforts.

“Please join Archbishop [George] Lucas in praying for all those displaced or otherwise affected by the ongoing flooding,” said the Archdiocese of Omaha, Nebraska.

A special collection in Omaha this weekend will help fund recovery efforts. Parishes have been asked to evaluate needs in their communities and request funds for both immediate recovery needs and long-term rebuilding.

“Grants may be distributed to purchase water, food, shelter, cleaning supplies, tools, building materials, and tuition assistance for displaced employees,” said archdiocesan spokesman Deacon Tim McNeil said.

He added that funds can go not only to the immediate needs of parishes, but to help with broader community assistance.

Nebraska has been among the hardest-hit states by severe flooding in recent days, although several other Midwestern states have also been affected as a “bomb cyclone” tore through the region last week, bringing with it strong winds and heavy rain. The floods that have resulted have washed out roads, destroyed homes, and burst dams, compounding the damage throughout the area.

The majority of counties in Nebraska are currently under a state of emergency, as are nearly half of the counties in Iowa.

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts said the storm has already caused “the most extensive damage our state has ever experienced.” Repairing damaged infrastructure could take months, and agricultural losses in ranching and growing crops could reach nearly $1 billion.

As residents scramble to evacuate, watching their livelihoods wash away in front of their eyes, their neighbors are doing what they can to offer support.

Catholic Social Services of Southern Nebraska is currently holding a bottled water drive to help students at Peru State College, who have been displaced for several days and are facing contaminated water for the foreseeable future.

The organization is also accepting donations to aid those who are suffering from the flooding.

“It is at times like these that we are all called to help our friends, relatives and neighbors who are suffering,” Catholic Social Services said in a statement. “Please help us help those who have lost so much.”

St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Elkhorn, Nebraska, is teaming up with Bethany Lutheran, Brookside, Peace Presbyterian and COPE to help with long-term rebuilding support for flood victims.

Proceeds from the March 15 Lenten Fish Fry at St. Patrick’s were donated to flood relief efforts.

Meanwhile, northwestern counties in the diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph are in the path of the flood waters.

“The towns are preparing,” said Kevin Murphy, executive director of marketing and communications for Catholic Charities in the diocese.

He told CNA that the major highway in the area has been closed, as the Missouri River is expected to reach near-record flooding levels.

Catholic Charities of Kansas City-St. Joseph could also be feeling the effects of the flooding in a very direct way – the organization’s satellite office in Buchanan County sits just about 5000 feet from the river.

“We are monitoring the situation closely,” Murphy said.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, head of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, offered his prayers as the floods continue, while also calling Catholics to participate in relief efforts.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of life and the damage caused by the flooding throughout the Midwest these past few days,” he said in a March 19 statement.

The bishop prayed “that those affected by the floods will find the strength to rebuild.”

“We trust that the Lord will console them in their suffering,” he said. “Let us answer the Lord’s call to love one another and generously support our neighbors in this time of need.”

He noted that Catholic Charities USA is collecting funds to help flood victims throughout the entire region.

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/amid-continued-midwest-flooding-catholic-groups-step-up-to-help-64023

Filth, mold, abuse’: report condemns state of California homeless shelters

image

A man sleeps on the sidewalk in Hollywood. Tens of thousands of people are homeless in California. Photograph: Frederic J Brown/AFP/Getty Images

Carla Green in Los Angeles

When she first moved into the Bridges at Kraemer Place shelter, Jan was optimistic. The southern California homeless shelter, which had just opened a couple months prior, seemed clean and well-organized. “It was so fun,” she said. “There was karaoke.”

But things quickly went downhill, said Jan, who asked that we only use her first name for fear of retribution over speaking out about the shelter conditions.

“Within a month, everything was rotten,” she said. “There was filth and mold and abuse by the staff. Mold on the floor of the bathroom, mold by the microwave … The only time it looked nice was when somebody would come to see it, like the media or someone from the board of supervisors.”

Bridges at Kraemer Place is one of three California shelters condemned for its bleak conditions in a new report from the ACLU. All are in Orange county, one of the wealthiest counties in California, which has been ravaged by a homelessness crisis. Last year there was an outcry after bus stops abutting Disneyland, one of the county’s largest employers, were stripped of benches that homeless people slept on, and local authorities were criticized for evicting hundreds of people living in a riverbed without offering them an alternative place to stay.

The ACLU report details a dizzying list of abuses and unlivable conditions, as reported by shelter residents, volunteers and staff.

The shelters were racked by infestations of rodents, roaches, bedbugs and other pests, and plagued by a culture of neglect and abuse by shelter staff, the report alleges.

“The shelters … fail to conform to standards set forth by international human rights law, which establish the minimum standard of living adequate for health and well-being,” its authors write.

“To the extent that the county or its agents have subjected people experiencing homelessness using emergency shelters to foreseeable harm and failed to intercede, it is responsible for state-created danger.”

The report includes a list of 10 recommendations to improve shelter conditions, including uniform health guidelines and due process for sanctions within the shelter system.

In response to the report, the county issued a statement saying officials are “committed to ensuring our emergency shelters are safe for all our clients”, and that they would take time to review the report before responding in detail.

This is not the first time that Orange county has been criticized for its treatment of the homeless.

Homeless advocates say the county and its cities are violating their responsibility to provide housing – or, at a minimum, shelter beds – for people living on the streets. Both the county and several of its cities are facing lawsuits alleging that they are mistreating homeless residents, in part by failing to provide enough shelter beds for them.

But the ACLU report demonstrates that itis not just the availability of shelter beds – but the quality of the shelters themselves – that’s important.

“Some of these violations [are] so egregious that they’re just hard to digest,” said Eve Garrow, a policy analyst at the ACLU of Southern California and co-author of the report.

Shelters are supposed to be humane places that actually help people and help them recover from life on the streets,” she said. “It was rather shocking to find out that not only were these shelters not living up to their promise, they’re actually harming the people they’re supposed to be serving.”

In a few cases, residents have died on shelter premises. The report notes that there were seven recorded deaths at one shelter, and another four people who died either in transit from the shelter to the hospital, or upon arrival at the hospital from the shelter.

It wasn’t long after Jan moved into Kraemer Place that she saw her first death. The man who died had been a friend of hers, she said. His name was Robert Estle.

“He said to me ‘If I don’t get out of here ‘into housing’, the only way I’ll get out is in a body bag,” Jan said. “And that’s exactly what happened.”

Estle died in a shelter bathroom in April 2018. Jan knew something was wrong when the bathroom door was locked overnight, she said.

“I’d been telling [shelter staff], ‘break down the door, something’s wrong’,” she said. “They didn’t do anything.”

When they finally opened the door, Estle was found dead, Jan said. Kraemer Place did not respond to a request for comment.

Igmar Rodas is a former resident of The Courtyard, another shelter profiled in the ACLU report. Rodas, who identifies himself as a homeless advocate and reporter, was living in his car before he moved into the shelter about three years ago. He saw similar conditions to what is detailed in the report, he said, “especially around the port-a-potties, it was full of feces. Varmints, rodents, roaches”.

Residents’ personal property was kept in trash bins, Rodas said. “One time I saw this big old rat coming out of one of the trash bins.”

“Let me put it this way. I interview people, and I ask them ‘why don’t [you] stay at The Courtyard?’ You know what they say? ‘I feel safer on the streets’.”

The Courtyard referred a request for comment to the statement issued by Orange county.

Both Rodas and Jan have moved into housing now – “by the grace of God, I got out”, Jan said – but because of their experience with the shelter system, they have both dedicated themselves to changing Orange county’s shelter system for the better.

“Now I’m blessed, but not everyone’s blessed,” Jan said.

 

 

 

 

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/mar/16/homeless-shelters-orange-county-aclu-report-condemns

Catholic leaders speak out against ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy

imageCredit: Herika Martinez /AFP/ Getty Images

Washington D.C., Mar 14, 2019 / 06:32 pm (CNA).- Catholic leaders released a statement this week in disagreement with the United States’ expansion of a policy that restricts asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“We oppose U.S. policy requiring asylum seekers to remain in Mexico while waiting to access protection in the United States. We urge the Administration to reverse this policy, which needlessly increases the suffering of the most vulnerable and violates international protocols,” the statement read.

Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, and Sean Callahan, president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, released the joint statement on March 13.

First implemented in January, the Migrant Protection Protocols require asylum seekers at the San Ysidro border crossing to remain in Mexico while immigration courts process their case – a procedure that may take years. In previous administrations, asylum seekers were often permitted to remain in the U.S. while awaiting their court dates.

The U.S. government announced Tuesday that the program would now be expanded to the border crossing in Calexico, which is about 120 miles outside of San Diego. Department of Homeland Security officials stated that 240 asylum seekers have been returned to Mexico since the policy was enacted. They anticipate that the number will grow significantly as the program expands.

In February, a lawsuit was introduced in federal court challenging the policy, which is known unofficially as the “Remain in Mexico” policy. The suit claims that the program puts asylum seekers at risk because of Mexico’s dangerous conditions. A federal judge has not yet announced whether an injunction will be granted to block the policy while it is being considered in court.

The Associated Press reported that Mexico’s Foreign Relations and Interior departments objected to the policy update, which they say was made unilaterally by the United States. However, citing “humanitarian reasons,” the departments said a majority of the asylum seekers returned to Mexico will be allowed to stay.

Vasquez and Callahan also voiced opposition to the policy, emphasizing the rights of the people seeking shelter from harsh conditions, especially from the dangers witnessed in Central America.

“We steadfastly affirm a person’s right to seek asylum and find recent efforts to curtail and deter that right deeply troubling. We must look beyond our borders; families are escaping extreme violence and poverty at home and are fleeing for their lives,” the statement read.

The Church leaders reiterated the call of Pope Francis to protect and welcome immigrants and encouraged the government to respond with policies that best promote human dignity.

“Our government must adopt policies and provide more funding that address root causes of migration and promote human dignity and sustainable livelihoods,” they said.

 

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/catholic-leaders-speak-out-against-remain-in-mexico-policy-59110

House passes first major gun control legislation in nearly quarter of a century

Gun photoNancy Pelosi on Capitol Hill on 26 February. For now the measure is a mostly symbolic gesture, not likely to be taken up in the Republican-controlled Senate. Photograph: Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

By David Smith

Gun control campaigners celebrated a precious win on Wednesday when the US House of Representatives passed its first major legislation on the issue in nearly a quarter of a century.

Members of Congress approved a measure requiring federal background checks for all firearms sales, including online and at gun shows, by 240 votes to 190. But for now it is a mostly symbolic gesture, not likely to be taken up in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Even so, Democrats characterised it as a significant move towards relaxing the gun lobby’s grip on Washington and addressing a national epidemic of gun violence, including the deaths of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Florida, last year that prompted a fresh surge of activism.

The bill, HR 8, bans firearms transfers by a person who is not a licensed dealer but its exemptions include “gifts to family members and transfers for hunting, target shooting, and self-defense”, the House judiciary committee website says.

In a debate on the House floor on Wednesday, the speaker, Nancy Pelosi, said: “Here are the facts: nearly 40,000 lives are cut short every year from gun violence. An average of 47 children and teenagers are killed by guns every single day.

“It’s all about the children, the children, the children. We read about the tragic mass murders that have happened in our country and they stir us to action, hopefully. Here it’s been they stir us to a moment of silence, and now finally to action.”

Democrats made the case that 97% of Americans support background checks, including 94% of gun-owning households. More than a hundred gun violence survivors, student activists and other campaigners, including Connecticut senator Chris Murphy, watched from the House gallery.

The bill passed largely along party lines with only eight Republican members voting in favor and two Democrats against. A late, Republican-backed amendment requires Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) to be notified when illegal immigrants attempt to buy a firearm.

The bill is the first of two that Democrats are bringing to the House floor this week as part of an effort to tighten gun laws following eight years of Republican control, which in June 2016 saw Democrats stage a sit-in protest over 26 hours. The other would extend the review period for a background check.

But neither bill stands much chance of success in the face of the Republican-controlled Senate and veto threats from Donald Trump. John Thune, the Republican majority whip in the Senate, told CNN it is “unlikely” his party will take up the bill for debate any time soon.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/feb/27/house-gun-control-legislation-passed