The Journey Through Central America And Its Dangers
Photo by Pablo Garcia Saldano
The continuous human flow of undocumented children mostly from Central America into the US is concerning issue. However, I want to clarify that my focus on this issue is not the politics related to it. Although important to understand the constant flow of unauthorized immigrants, I want to focus on the struggles and stories of these children that have made the dangerous journey in search for a better life or in some cases the chance to survived.
It is not an exaggeration to say many children escaped and embark on the dangerous journey, because staying in their neighborhoods, cities, or country is just as dangerous or more. This is exactly what undocumented parents in the US said to Prensa Libre, a prestigious newspaper in Guatemala, to justify paying coyotes to bring their children to the US.
What this government (US) still has not understood is that if we risk bringing our children is because there is no other option. Is either send money to bring our children or for the funeral
(Jose A., in an interview with Prensa Libre, prensa_libre on Twitter)
The political instability, corruption, and gang violence in the Northern triangle (Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala) countries and Mexico does not affect the people at the top making decisions behind a desk, but the people at the bottom, living their lives in fear. In the case of these kids there is a thin line between undocumented immigrants and refugees. This is why the stories of Jose and others need to be heard! He was lucky enough to have his two children reach the US safely, but others are not. Even though coyotes promised to deliver the children safely this does not always happens. Many boys are given to gangs and many women are raped or sold as sex slaves. In the case of Leticia Argentina Gonzales, her two daughters (one 12 and the other 10) got lost in the desert along with Leticia's sister-in-law. It was year later that Federal authorities found the remains after the coyotes abandoned them.
Unchanging Extreme Poverty In Central America Throughout The Years (Graphic by gapminder.org)
In The Land Of The Free And The Home Of The Brave?
Photo by Andrew Schultz
Once the children have been captured by immigration agents they are sent to detention centers. These detention centers are scattered all over the country's states and cities. The conditions in the centers are not perfect, they are cramped, kids sleep on sleeping bags, and the children are not allowed outside except for 45 minutes for exercise. However, considering the conditions they are used to living in back in their home countries and the dangers they faced on their journeys, these facilities are more than ideal. My criticism is not on the facilities or on the treatment of children, but on the fact that the kids are not provided legal representation and are forced to represent themselves in front of a judge. According to an article in the New York times, thousand of children are not represented by any lawyer or attorney. They are expected to plead for asylum or any other immigration status by themselves in legal systems they do not understand. A 15 year old kid from El Salvador said,
I was afraid I was going to make a mistake [...] When the judge asked me questions, I just shook my head yes and no. I didn't want to say the wrong thing
(In an interview with The New York Times)
At the same time accused killers, rapists, and kidnappers do get representation even if they cannot afford it. Undocumented children accused of breaking immigration law do not get the same legal and human rights that all people deserve!