Child migration in the United States should be addressed and handled, not ignored. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Human Services are responsible for these unaccompanied minors. Solutions need to be made in the system due to the risks that these children are facing.
What is a child migrant? They are unaccompanied minors under the age of 18 who do not have any legal status in the U.S. These children do not have a parent or legal guardian to care for them. On a website that is from one of your agencies, DHS, which is the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, They state, “In April, the average number of unaccompanied children in CBP custody was 500 per day.” Those kids, who likely came with their families from south of the border, have migrated to the U.S. in search of freedom and opportunity. Unfortunately, many of these families are split up at the border. These minors are in need of an escape and help from the violence, poverty, and other dangers in their homelands.
You have a chance to make a difference, but instead you expose them to additional dangers and put them at risk of unfair treatment. Putting literal children in court to fight without representation to stay in the U.S. is so morally wrong when many are so young that some don’t even know what a lawyer is. A migrant’s traumatic experiences are only worsened by your detention centers. These facilities are also filled with dehumanizing conditions such as overcrowding, poor hygienic conditions, and a lack of access to basic necessities. Many minors are alone in this process and are forced to struggle to navigate through the immigration process. This is especially hard due to the language and cultural barriers. Which only furthers their unsafety by making them vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. In the New York Times article, Alone and Exploited, Migrant Children Work Brutal Jobs Across the U.S. – The New York Times states that “The factory was full of underage workers like Carolina, who had crossed the Southern border by themselves and were now spending late hours bent over hazardous machinery, in violation of child labor laws.” These minors are taken advantage of and made to work against the law. This system needs fixing, as child migrants’ lives are at risk in your hands.
There are some solutions I have come up with that you all at the Department of Homeland Security and Human Services should definitely consider and/or enact. Especially after letting all these dangers happen to children under your responsibility. A solution to help these minors who are facing trauma should be access to therapy and counseling. This can help address the mental health needs of child migrants. It is one step that can assist in the healing and rebuilding of these children’s lives. DHS, HS, governments, and many more agencies responsible for child migrants must prioritize the reunification of families.
Find investors to invest in family tracing, legal assistance, and supportive services that will lessen the lasting effects of the painful separation between families at the border. Those at HS and DHS must also invest in a different type of housing for migrant children than detention centers. Having migrants live in community-based housing can help them get the care and education they really need. Investing in caseworkers to check up on these kids is something you should strive for as well. A partnership between governments and community organizations is important to making sure that migrant children can live in much better conditions than at an overcrowded detention center. Government agencies and labor unions should increase the penalties for those who violate it. The lack of legal representation among child migrants needs to be addressed and focused on. It is important to offer resources that meet a child migrant’s needs. Funding for legal aid organizations should be expanded, and even working with pro bono attorneys is a way to help this situation. This can provide representation in court to as many children as possible going through the immigration process. You must strive for a just system that gives these children a better chance at a secure and fair future.
Adriana Cruz – DePaul College Prep – DMSF Class of 2027