Life On The Border,
When Immigrants are Kids

 

Migrants, consisting of mostly women and children, who disembarked from a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement bus, wait for a Greyhound official to process their tickets to their next destination at a bus station in Phoenix May 29. Latin American and U.S. Catholic leaders are calling for greater protections for migrants, especially the record number of minors making the trip from Central America to the U.S. alone. (CNS photo/Samantha Sais, Reuters) (June 6, 2014) See LATAM LETTER June 6, 2014.

Did you know that over 60,000 kids crossed the border unaccompanied by an adult in 2014?  We are on target for at least half of that this year, so another 30,000 kids (a population that equals the entire town where I am living right now). This is a marked increase in the immigration of minors as compared to previous years.

The majority of these kids flee from El Salvador, Guatemala, or Honduras.

Kids come for many reasons usually a combination of violence and poverty. Most of these kids come via the Rio Grande Valley.

New York Times, Unaccompanied Minors Crossing

Border Patrol and Customs are doing what they can. But this problem is near overwhelming.

A Border Patrol Riverine Unit conducts patrols in an Air and Marine Safe-Boat in South Texas along the Rio Grande river.  They rescue a child who is stranded on the river bank of the Rio Grande. Photographer: Donna Burton

Some of these kids aren’t even school age yet, they are now living, mostly detained, in a foreign country, caught up in a system that was not expecting them.

I don’t know much more than what I’m posting here and I by no means presume to make any criticisms of how this is being handled or propose any ideas of what should be done about it. But I will say that those of us who care about humanity, and especially those of us that call ourselves Christians should care about these kids.

A great introduction to some of the issues around the immigration of minors is Enrique’s Journey.  Written well before this current crisis, Enrique’s journey is a true story of one family from Honduras.  Nazario opens to us the minds of parents in poverty and why they leave for America and then into the heart of the child growing up parentless and why they follow.
I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to dip a toe into the vast waters of immigration. Read with caution though, you may get sucked in,  next thing you know you may be moving to The Rio Grande Valley and living as our next door neighbor and we would love it!

2 Comments

  • Shannon Reply

    Thanks for broaching this topic Erica. I will unapologetically show my ignorance here and ask stupid questions. Do the parents usually send the children across the border? Or are the children orphans or runaways? Maybe the answer is all of the above, but that’s been confusing to me. I can’t imagine the pain of sending my child away, praying for a safer life for them. Like Moses’ mother. Anyway I’d love to read the book but know I realistically can’t anytime soon, so I’m interested to learn more about it through snippets at a time. Thanks for sharing.

    • egjarrett Reply

      Thanks for your interest Shannon, honestly I don’t know much and really not many people do, I don’t think this issue has been covered in much depth in our media. Funny the article I’m linking too for a quick explanation here is from the BBC. I’m hoping I can learn more from first hand experience now that we are down here. In Enrique’s journey he leaves as a teen to find his mother, and I think that is common for teens and has increased as the gang violence has escalated, many are forced to join gangs where they live or else becoming a victim to one of them is a guarantee. I think also smugglers who make money off of transporting these big groups of kids tend to paint a more favorable picture of what the opportunities are for the kid when they get to America. Many are “sent” to family. Which may look something like arriving at the border with a paper scrap that says the name of their aunt and the city they live in and no other contact info. I think when they came in smaller numbers there was more of an effort to connect kids with family at least until they could have a court date to hear their case but now the system is just overrun. Kids from Mexico can be deported faster but our laws say that anyone from further south needs to have a court hearing to discuss their case so processing these kids is literally a several year process.

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