The dreadful reality that, in the 21st century, 14,300 migrant children and teens have been placed in mass detention centers throughout the United States pales before the overwhelming apathy of citizens of a country that is the world´s leading advocate for freedom and the pursuit of happiness.
This Christmas holiday, let us reflect about the consequences that insensitivity towards these thousands of children in America and around the world, have for humanity.
Latino migrant children, overwhelmed by poverty, corruption and violence in their home country, get trapped in a complicated journey where they often become victims of people smugglers looking for profit. Eventually, they become entangled in an inhumane system.
An Associated Press investigation documented the conditions under which the US government keeps thousands of children away from their parents for months and the serious consequences that, as anticipated, this treatment will have for their lives, families and for our society.
The report reveals, for example, that “some 5,400 detained migrant children in the U.S. are sleeping in shelters with more than 1,000 other children,”
As of March 2017, there were 2,720 children held in shelters or in housing programs.
They have become an easy prey for the federal administration to punish Latino migration to the United States. The government refers to them as illegal immigrants, although many arrive at the borders to undergo rigorous procedures to request entry or asylum.
However, according to AP “dozens of the care providers have been sued or disciplined before for mistreating kids,” who were already victims.
According to the report, now kids remain twice as long as before in what are virtually concentration camps that will leave them with harrowing traces for life. The situation is so unreasonable that kids in detention “range in age from toddlers to 17,”
distributed in up to 150 facilities in 17 states.
Government officials try to justify this by arguing that it “is a better alternative than holding them for long periods at Border Patrol stations.”
However, nothing compares to keep them close to their families while assessing each migratory condition swiftly and sensitively. The anxiety, mistrust and resentment that these children suffer fertilize the seed of humanity that each kid represents.
In different ways, millions of other children suffer in the world, sieged by wars and famines that don´t seem to draw the global attention they deserve.
Right here in Puerto Rico, more than half of the population live in poverty. In England, child poverty rates have increased significantly in just six years. In Haiti and Yemen, some die from malnutrition. Others are recruited to kill and die in wars.
The solutions are complex, but they require willingness to address them rather than disregarding or turning a blind eye to this situation. In Nicaragua and Guatemala, for example, governments repress the population to the point of having expelled –this week- civil rights organizations that fight impunity. Many of the families who try to enter the United States flee from those governments while President Donald Trump insists on raising a wall, rather than taking responsibility in the search for fair solutions. Thus, in every region, actions are urgently needed to free children from so much injustice that takes away their childhood, their right to life and well-being.
But not everything depends on major or external forces. Each boy and girl should be the most precious thing in a family. We have to protect them.
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