Unaccompanied Children at the Border: Part 1
If you have recently watched the news, you have likely heard of the swelling numbers of unaccompanied children arriving at our southern border. A common remark I often hear is, “I just don’t understand; how could anyone send their child alone to another country?”
If you have never read the poem, “Home,” by Warsan Shire, a former Young Poet Laureate from London who was born in Kenya to Somali parents, please take a moment to do so. Consider this excerpt:
“…you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land…”
First, it is critical to consider the cause of this migration: unprecedented violence that continues in Central America due to gangs that recruit or force children into “service” as young as 7 or 8 yo. The Northern Triangle countries maintain many of the world’s highest homicide rates and face further economic destabilization due to recent hurricanes and the increasing effects of climate change.
The journey to the U.S. for an unaccompanied child is just the beginning. (For example, there is no right to legal counsel for these children.) By law, they are supposed to be transferred out of Border Patrol custody within 72 hours to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which houses them until family or sponsors can be identified and vetted to assume custody while their cases meander through a slow and inefficient system. Many claim that the recent numbers surpass the system’s ability to safely house and transfer these children. There have also been reports of rampant sexual abuse by the Border Patrol over the years.
But we can -- and must -- rise to meet this challenge, and policies are already shifting to humanely respond to this crisis. Stay tuned for more information as it develops by subscribing to the Disciples Immigration Legal Counsel newsletter.
In the meantime, while appropriate responses are still in progress, here are four organizations responding directly abroad and at the border: