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Eastern Conference Soccer Champs Face Off

Posted on August 3, 2017 by Alice Kenny  |  Share

Remind Immigrant Teens to Stand Strong


La Union F.C. watched New York City FC beat the Chicago Fire at Yankee Stadium.

For 20 Central and South American teens cheering at Yankee Stadium in late July as the New York City FC jammed the Chicago Fire Soccer Club’s winning streak to a sudden halt, this epic match between these top Eastern Conference soccer clubs reinforced the motto each teen has had to adopt since arriving in this tough city: never give up.

Alone and adrift, the teens, nearly all unaccompanied minors, found inspiration and companionship in La Union FC, a new soccer league formed just for them that practices on South Bronx fields shadowed by Yankee Stadium.  Cofounded by Catholic Charities and South Bronx United, the league sparks memories of matches the teens played in their hometowns.

The brain child of Catholic Charities Youth Migration Counselor Elvis Garcia, once an undocumented immigrant himself, La Union FC relies on the physical language of kicks, punts and penalties, a language at which these teens excel rather than the new language of English they struggle to master.  Most are plagued by nightmares of violence and poverty, of 1000-plus mile treks atop trains and by foot to reach the safety of the United States and of immigration court dates that will decide their fate.

Thousands of immigrant children arrive in the United States each year alone and frightened without a relative or caring adult.  Catholic Charities provides crucial legal and support services to children detained in temporary, federal shelter care in New York as they await reunification with a relative or transfer to foster care.  We also offer legal representation in court so children don’t have to go in front of a judge alone. 

La Union FC is extremely important to the boys because it helps give them a sense of belonging and is an opportunity for them to forget their problems,” says Mr. Garcia, who organized and helped chaperone the event.

Goya Foods, a key supporter of Catholic Charities, sponsored the teens' tickets and t-shirts to this highly contested game when these top Eastern Conference clubs met for the first time this season.

“Thanks to Goya Foods for giving us the NYC FC tickets and t-shirts and for all the support to La Union FC,” Mr. Garcia says.  “It was amazing to see the reaction of some of the kids that attended a professional soccer game for the first time.”

Do you know an immigrant child who needs help?