More than 60,000 unaccompanied children from poverty-stricken and violence-torn areas of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras have been detained so far this year by U.S. Border Patrol agents…
And these children are presented with a host of difficulties including, medical, psychological, economic, educational, and legal, on top of cultural and language barriers, urgent humanitarian help is needed.
California’s Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 873 allocating $3 million to nonprofit groups proving legal assistance just yesterday.
“With the stroke of a pen, Governor Brown reaffirmed California’s commitment to doing its part to address the unprecedented humanitarian crisis at border involving Central American youth,” said Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) in a statement Saturday. “Deportation for some of these kids is tantamount to a virtual death sentence so it’s important that they have access to the adequate legal representation.”
Read the part that states, “Deportation for some of these kids is tantamount to a virtual death…”
Why is that?
Let’s re-examine what is taking place in Central America’s Northern Triangle: rampant violence; drug trafficking; gangs; criminal enterprises; sex trafficking; extreme violence; numerous human rights violations.
There are sequestrations and “rentas” (extortion demands).
Honduras has the world’s highest murder rate, according to a United Nations report, Global Study on Homicide, 2013.
Femicide has skyrocketed in Honduras with high numbers in San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa.
As for El Salvador, the U.S. Department of State rates El Salvador as “Critical” for crime. El Salvador is considered one of the most violent countries in the world.
And not to be outdone, “Guatemala has one of the highest violent crime rates in Central America. The violent crime rate is considered “Critical” by the U.S. Department of State.”
So, are their troubles over? Not by a long shot.
Examine the model I wrote about:
Briefly, there are 5 stages:
- The emotional trauma exposed to in country of origin that prompted the decision to flee.
- The dangers exposed to on the way to “freedom” and consequential emotional trauma.
- The emotional trauma incurred by being placed in overcrowded “jail-like” detention facilities. These children, already vulnerable and emotionally fragile, face the added burden of not knowing what lies ahead and what is to become of them.
- Adjusting to a life in the U.S. taking into consideration cultural, language, and financial barriers and separation from family and reliance on new caretakers. These children also must endure the emotional trauma of uncertainty: will they be allowed to remain in the U.S.?
- The emotional trauma of having to return to country of origin in the event that relief is not granted.
Presently, the 4,000 or so unaccompanied minors held in California who will have legal assistance available are somewhere between Stages 3 and 4. They also carry the “baggage of Stages 1 and 2. The emotional scarring many have experienced may not be easily erased, and could last for years and perhaps even a lifetime, calling for mental health interventions. Needless to say the mental health interventions must conducted by professionals who are fluent in Spanish and familiar with the cultures.
And let’s not forget, these children still have health, educational, and financial needs.