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From Jacksonville Beach, FL

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Children at the Border: Where's the Humanity??

Writer, Sonia Nazario and photographer Don Bartletti of the Los Angeles Times won the Pulitzer in 2002 for the series, "Enrique's Journey."  It is the story of a teenage Honduran immigrant's perilous journey across Guatamala and the full length of Mexico to find his mother. She left to find work in the USA when he was five. He is sixteen when he makes his first harrowing effort to reach her.  His story was first published in book form in 2006.

Enrique's story is an odyssey, in the Greek sense of the word.   On the journey to get to the Rio Grande, the crossing place, he encounters dangerous beasts in the form of gangs and bandits who steal his money, his very clothes, beat him up and leave him unconscious by the railroad tracks.  The train itself is a beast requiring extreme diligence and caution.  

Carelessness or just the inability to jump far enough causes many young immigrants to lose legs, feet, hands, their very lives. Riding on top of a rail car is intrinsically dangerous. Thirst and hunger are constant enemies as most of the children have no money, and if they do, it is soon stolen from them by those older boys who prey on the younger and more innocent.  Even the police cannot be trusted.  They steal from the immigrants and beat them.  And always lying in wait, are the immigration authorities ready to send the children back home, sometimes stealing from them first.  

Finally, after more than 12,000 miles, 122 days, and seven attempts to find his mother, Enrique reaches his goal.  His joy is unbounded, but short-lived.  His mother has another child by now and Enrique feels resentment that his mother left and never made any effort to return to him.  Life is not as good as he had hoped.  

In recent years, more immigrant children have tried to reach and enter the United States.  In 2013, the Border Patrol apprehended 38, 833 unaccompanied minors.  Of course, many other minors were not caught and many may not have got far enough to be caught.  This time the reasons for travel are somewhat different.  This year (2014) 74,000 minors are expected to be caught at the border.  ( Ian Gordon, "Children Crossing," Mother Jones magazine, July, August 2014 issue)

In 2000, the reason was more because of poverty, poverty so intense that mothers left children with other relatives or friends and entered the USA to work and send money back home.  Enrique's mother did this.  He would have been unable to attend school had she not sent money.  In the last 2-3 years, the reasons for minor immigration is what some call a "civil war," dangerous living conditions, rape, murder, other violence in their home countries.  But, like Enrique's experience, a new life in the USA does not live up to expectations.  They still encounter gang violence and drugs in the streets.  

Many, many of the immigrant children are housed in virtual prisons after they arrive here.  They are closed up and they cannot leave, nor do most have any kind of legal representation.  As virtual refugees, they are due representation.  Some represent themselves, but how far will that get a 12-16 year old?  (Ian Gordon)

Worse still, this summer children after their long trek, were met at the border by adults screaming at them.  A humane person would want to give them a good meal and a comfortable resting place.  Politics be damned.   

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