HEIDELBERG TWP., Pa. - Lawmakers are still trying to determine what to do about an influx of children from Central America crossing the southern United States border.
As the debate goes on, protests are spreading in Arizona and California. According to the latest Gallup Poll, one in six people now calls immigration the most pressing problem facing the U.S.
Officials are touring sites like an abandoned middle school in Texas as they look for ways to ease overcrowding at border patrol facilities. Some want the children deported, others say they should be allowed to stay.
A program in Berks County is helping to reunite some of those children with their family members in the United States.
According to the U.S. Border Patrol, more than 50,000 children have crossed the border since October.
"Frankly, I view this as probably one of the biggest humanitarian crisis involving children since the Civil War," said Kevin Snyder, the CEO of Bethany Children's Home in Heidelberg Township.
Snyder was recently contacted by the federal government and asked to begin taking in children who have crossed the border and have nowhere else to turn, some victims of abuse and human trafficking.
"They are very caring kids. They are very needy children. They are very appreciative," said Snyder.
The program is called Helping Hands. It allows staff at Bethany Children's Home to pick up children at one of the surrounding airports, give them food, clothing and a medical exam and reunite them with family in the United States while they await an immigration proceeding.
The youth range in age from infants to up to 18-years-old, and Bethany can take up to 32 children at one time.
Regardless of the controversy, Snyder said Bethany is committed to helping kids as long as there is a need.
"These are children. They need help and we just cannot turn our backs on them," said Snyder.
Bethany has been running the programs for only about a month and the staff has already reunited about 60 kids with their families in the U.S.
Allentown, PA 18102