From Alienation to Protection: Central American Child Migration – Heide Castañeda, Lauren Heidbrink, and Kristin Yarris
Heide Castañeda, Lauren Heidbrink, and Kristin Yarris
During the summer of 2014, the eyes of the United States – indeed, the world – turned their gaze on the thousands of Central Americans crossing borders to seek refuge and opportunity. This resulted in a range of responses – from solidarity and support to racism and exclusion – and a stalled search for solutions. As three U.S.-based scholars conducting research along these migration routes over the past several years, this summer we were pulled somewhat unexpectedly into public debates about Central American migrant children and U.S. immigration policy. Coming one year after failed efforts towards comprehensive immigration reform in Congress, the issue of unaccompanied minors has complicated popular understandings of the reasons, processes, and meanings of migration. Here, we reflect on the broader context and policy implications of our research. Read more…
- Responding to rampant gang violence in Honduras, the Obama administration is considering a proposal to screen minors there to see if they can enter the U.S. on refugee or emergency humanitarian grounds and thus bypass the dangerous migration through Mexico.
- Child migrants from Central America have shared harrowing stories of their journeys through Mexico and across the border, many involving abuse. Sonia Nazario describes the hometown contexts of this group she terms “children of the drug wars.” Commentators attribute the rise in child migration primarily to misinformation about the Obama administration’s Deferred Action program, although some politicians and concerned citizens are training the conversation on political-economic causes including the international weapons trade, crime, and poverty.
- Since October, more than 47,000 unaccompanied children have been apprehended on the U.S.-Mexico border, particularly in Arizona and regions of South Texas that have not seen such high immigration in over a decade. (The New York Times Editorial Board provides one of the best overviews of the crisis to date, as well as some suggestions.)
- A recent UNHCR report address some of the reasons for the rise, including gang influences and rumors of immigration permits for youth. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson declared “a level-four condition of readiness” in the Rio Grande Valley and President Obama responded by forming a special task group under FEMA and an initiative to provide child immigrants with lawyers.
- Volunteers with groups such as the Phoenix Restoration Project have struggled to aid women and children “dumped” at bus stations without food, water, or means to contact family members, although there are reports of attempted remedies.
- A recent study finds that undocumented youth, known as the “Dreamers,” are becoming increasingly disenchanted with political parties in the US.
- Attorney General Eric Holder and Education Secretary Arne Duncan instructed public schools not to deny enrollment to children of undocumented immigrants, reminding districts that current practices may violate federal law.
- A recent New York Times editorial discusses inattention to complaints regarding Border Patrol agents’ abusive or threatening behavior.
- Lawmakers in California have proposed a bill to include health care coverage for undocumented immigrants, closing a gap created by the Affordable Care Act.
- A 12-year-old girl, Noemi Álvarez Quillay, committed suicide in a children’s shelter on the border after she was picked up by police in Juárez on her second attempt to travel, alone but in the company of smugglers, the long journey from Nicaragua to her parents in the Bronx.
- Twelve people were arrested April 28 in a protest at the White House against deportations.
- On April 30, the A.F.L.-C.I.O. protested deportations by projecting a 60-by-90-foot video onto the side of the union’s headquarters in Washington.
- New Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said comprehensive immigration reform would be necessary to end unjust deportations and keep families together.