Unaccompanied migrant children

This year, one of the most challenging humanitarian situations, unaccompanied migrant children, has doubled the number of children coming across the U.S.-Mexican border.

It is estimated that nearly 63,000 children have been discovered crossing the United States border since October 2013. The images that we see are striking, disturbing, and perplexing. Young children, without family or guardians, knowing that they have traveled many miles with only a hope of arriving at their destinations. The journey is often dangerous and even deadly. These children are seeking better lives that are not shaped by poverty, violence, crime or drugs, but are empowered economic mobility, education, opportunity, dignity and security… and yet, far and few actually realize these dreams.

Immigration has been and will always be one of the most important facets of American history. And this wave of migration, is quite complex, as "more than three-quarters of the minors are from mostly poor and violent towns in three countries: El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras." 

Although the reasons for the children fleeing tend to depend on the child's home country, poverty, violence and family reunification are often cited as the main reasons. Honduras has the world's highest murder rate, while the Guatemalan children are from extremely poor rural areas. The Department of Homeland Security has acknowledged that because so many minors who were detained in the past few years were reunited with their families here and not immediately deported, many Central Americans were left with the perception that the United States was allowing children to stay. 

After the children have been discovered, the U.S Department of Health and Human Services gives each child a proper health screening, immunizations, and a place at a short-term shelter. Although there are over 100 shelters along the U.S.-Mexican Border, they have been incredibly depleted in their resources due to overcrowding. The immigration process thereafter is complicated, slow and unable to match and meet the need nor the inflow of people, although there have been measures made in Congress to increase emergency humanitarian aid, policy and bolster engagement with the communities and children in need.  Recently, the U.S. Government has sped up the deportation proceedings and many children are being processed for return within 21-30 days.

Childhood will continue to monitor the situation, as we remember that this crisis is about children fleeing violence.

Ashlee Thomas
Columnist, Childhood USA