Pope Francis is calling for urgent action to protect the tens of thousands of children who make their way alone from Central America to the United States.

In a letter read at a Vatican-organized conference in Mexico City, Francis said these children need to be welcomed. He added that after leaving their families and escaping violence and poverty, they are met with racism and xenophobia when reaching the U.S. border.

The pope appealed to the world community to promote development in Latin America while also spreading the word among the would-be child immigrants that traveling alone is dangerous.

U.S. lawmakers from both parties are calling on Congress to vote on a bill to boost funding for processing illegal immigrants before next month's recess.