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Influx Of Children To South Florida Likened To Pedro Pan Movement

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Lawmakers are being asked to take a closer look at why children are arriving in South Florida and all over the United States before considering their immigration status.

Some people worry the welfare of the children will be overlooked.  Many consider the current increase of children crossing the border to the Pedro Pan children of the 1960s.

At that time, Marcos Regalado flew into Miami from Havana known as a Pedro Pan Child.

At 6-years-old, he and his 14-year-old brother Tomás, who is now Miami’s mayor, were put on a plane alone by their mom and dad.  He remembers waving goodbye.

“There was a glass window,” Marcos recalls, “your parents were on the other side, and you walked to the plane and that’s the last time you saw your parents until they were able to come here.”

In all, 14,000 children were sent to the U.S. from Cuba over a two-year period.

Some went on to live with relatives, others were sent out of state to foster homes and more went to camps on the edge of the everglades.

Their parents sent them to the U.S. in hopes of a better life.

“They didn’t want us to grow up in a society or government was, and still is, a totalitarian regime,” said Marcos.

More than 50 years later, kids are flooding the U.S. border again.

This time from Central America, fleeing violence and poverty – but looking for a better life.  It’s something the children of Pedro Pan completely understand.

“The reason they’re sending is because they see no future for their children and they believe there is a future here in the United States.

The Catholic Church in Miami played a key role in organizing the Pedro Pan movement.  Now, it’s lobbying lawmakers again, crisscrossing Capitol Hill.  “There must be one overriding principal,” said Randy McGrorty from the Arch Diocese of Miami’s Catholic Legal Services. “The best interest of the children and these are children.”

The church is urging lawmakers to look at the needs of each child who crosses the border, before looking at their immigration status. “This is a child welfare situation and we need to address that first and foremost before we look at all of the large migration issues,” McGrorty said.

Still, the outcome for most of these children who are here illegally will likely be the same.  The White House says most will be sent back to their native country after an immigration hearing.

Watch Ted Scouten’s report, click here.

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