FORERO: The cries of immigrant children

The lack of documentation signifies the dehumanization of immigrants under the Trump Administration

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Immigrating to the United States is filled with hardships that no child should have to endure, yet many must in order to seek safety.

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

As a result of increasing violence, millions have fled El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. According to PBS, gang violence escalated in these countries in 2006, when the Mexican army went to war with cartels in Central America, setting off a years-long conflict with thousands of civilians caught in the crossfire. Furthermore, many of the children affected are influenced by drug traffickers or “narcotraficantes” to serve as drug-mules and assassins. In light of the horrific violence spreading through Central America, thousands of immigrant children are arriving unaccompanied at the border between Mexico and the United States. Unfortunately in the wake of these tragedies, the Trump administration has shown an utter disregard towards immigrants — specifically immigrant children — before and after they reach the United States. 

Immigrating to the United States is filled with hardships that no child should have to endure, yet many must in order to seek safety. Immigrant children attempting to enter the United States illegally in search of safety, both alone and accompanied by an adult, are typically discovered at the border and taken into custody. According to Kids In Need of Defense, a child migrant advocacy group, once the children are taken into custody, they are issued a “Notice to Appear” for a removal hearing before an immigration judge. In these proceedings, sometimes children must stand alone in a formal court, and attempt to make a defense for why they should not be deported, while standing opposed to an attorney from the Department of Homeland Security. If the court decides not to deport the child, the Department of Health and Human Services then places the child under the custody of relatives already in the U.S. or under the custody of a sponsor. 

To make matters worse, an official from the DHHS appeared before Congress on April 26 claiming that they had lost nearly 1,500 of the children which they had placed in sponsor homes. These lost children are mostly from these war torn Central American countries, and after being separated from their families, are now living in unknown conditions. The disappearance of these children has raised concerns that some of these children are being placed in homes where they are not being enrolled in school, and are instead forced to work. Another major concern is that government officials may have turned these toddlers and teens over to human traffickers who posed as the child’s relative or as a sponsor.  

One example of children who were handed over by government officials to human traffickers occured in Ohio. According to the New York Times, two years ago Congress released a report detailing how health and human services officials placed eight children with human traffickers who forced the minors to work on an egg farm in Marion, Ohio. In the aftermath of these revelations, Sen. Rob Portman(R-Ohio) stated, “These kids, regardless of their immigration status, deserve to be treated properly, not abused or trafficked. This is all about accountability.” 

More recently, when many families fleeing from Honduras, Guatemala and Central America attempt to cross into the U.S., they were subjugated to separation. The Trump administration has been strictly enforcing a “zero tolerance” policy, which has resulted in the separation of migrant children from their parents. It was widely reported that, nearly 2,000 children were separated from their families as a result of this policy. Many of these children who are ripped from their parents, are then sent to holding facilities, however, many of these facilities resembled little more than a bleak prison

Media sources have done an excellent job pressuring the Trump administration to change its horrific policy, which eventually culminated with President Trump signing an order ending the practice — though more work needs to be done to reunite already separated families. The existence of such a policy — and the time it took to partially address it — shows the antipathy Trump has for immigrant families. In addition, many doctors claim, these children may now face a lifetime full of trauma, and they must be paid for all the suffering inflicted upon them at the hand of government officials. 

These are people we are dealing with. Not animals. These immigrants, both young and old, are refugees, and they must not be viewed through the rhetoric being emphasized by the Trump administration. For critics who may remain unconvinced of the status of these children as refugees, it must be pointed out that Honduras’s murder rate was 90 per 100,000 in 2012, the highest in the world.  Most natural born American citizens cannot imagine the nightmare which these children have lived in all their lives. It is our responsibility as a global leader to step up to the plate, and provide these children with peace and safety. It is our moral duty to do so for those facing such terrible atrocities, but it will never happen until we as a society advocate for these children. We are all one humanity, and we must start standing up for these children whose voices cannot be heard. 

Izabella Forero is an Opinion Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at opinion@cavalierdaily.com.

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