The “100% Prosecution” Policy and The 1,500 Missing Immigrant Children

The U.S. government is separating immigrant kids from their parents – legally. This is following the Trump administration’s announcement that they would be prosecuting anyone who crossed the border illegally. As immigrant parents crossed the border to escape political turmoil, high rates of violent crimes, poverty, and low-wages in their countries, they were confronted by government officials and arrested. Consequently, the children they came with were separated from them and forced into detention centers to face the complexities of the immigration system by themselves. In two weeks, over 600 children have already been separated from their parents, and the number will only keep growing.

Now, migrant children are alone, in detention camps, with no comfort, security, or familiar faces to offer a feeling of safety. The effects of these moments will last a lifetime and the trauma instilled in the innocent children by the president will be scarring. Often, these children (mostly from Central America) have left their hometown to escape violent situations. They have witnessed threats and even deaths by local gang members and their only sign of safety is their parents- their mothers. Separating them from their source of comfort and peace can cause anxiety and fear, usually more powerful than what they were initially feeling in their homeland.

Embed from Getty Images

The U.S. Government Vs. The Children
While separating the children from their families, the government has also quietly, and quickly sabotaged organizations centered on helping immigrant youth navigate the immigration system. However, as news of the separation of the families hit mainstream media, so did the defunding of the organizations set up to help them begin to take place. Essentially, these immigrant kids did not only travel to the U.S to escape a dangerous and an oppressive environment, but upon arrival, they are separated from the only source of safety they have, they are detained and placed in detention centers that parallel a jail and are now unable to access free legal help. Let’s be clear– the U.S government, President Trump, and his associates have ripped away any chance of a good childhood these kids could’ve had. Grown men picking on children. If this isn’t abuse of power, I don’t know what is.

The Innocent Suffer
While non-profit organizations scramble to find the resources available to help provide the migrant children legal assistance, the children are lining up, like criminals, in detention centers across the U.S. For many who are too young to understand the systematic oppression of the minority populations in this country, living in jail-like environments can be permanently damaging. Not only have the children lacked safety and consistency, but now they are thrown in an environment where they need to line up, where they are locked in, and where they need to answer to authority figures they do not even recognize. These realities at a young age, an age too young to understand that it not about them, can become real fears in adulthood. These unjust realities can convert into traumas that cause self-esteem issues, problems with authority, and the misconception that they are beneath others, typically the white man. The effects of their current situation will cause PTSD– a disorder they will spend a lot of their adult life trying to heal from.

I can’t help but think that this is all part of the masterplan to oppress through trauma because how do you tell a child he is worth more than his current circumstances when he has seen violence in his hometown, he has seen his brother murdered and his mother threatened, he has escaped and traveled miles for a chance at safety only to be separated from his only family and is now incarcerated (or legally enclosed) for simply being born in a devastating and unfortunate reality. How do you tell a child everything is all right when everything around him has been strategically designed to make him fail?

Embed from Getty Images

Where Are The 1,500? 

It has been reported that approximately 1,500 migrant children are “missing” from the Department of Health and Human Services’ database. The children are believed to be with U.S. sponsors but the lack of information regarding those sponsors has raised concerns on whether those children are safe- particularly raising concerns on the likelihood of the children ending up in the hands of sex traffickers or as children laborers.

When the Department of HHS conducted a follow up on nearly eight thousand children and their sponsors, they learned that about six thousand remained with their sponsors, 28 were runaways, 5 were deported, and 52 had relocated to live with a non-sponsor guardian. However, 1,475 children are still completely unaccounted for. In past years, the HSS’s handling of immigrant children who arrive at the border alone has raised serious questions. Two years ago, a report was released detailing how the HSS placed eight children with human traffickers who used the minors to work on an egg farm in Ohio. In 2016, the HSS signed a document stating their understanding and future efforts in establishing procedures that will follow up with assigned sponsors and the children.

It is 2018, more than a year since the document was signed and the problem continues.

Most of the children who arrive at the border, with or without a guardian, are escaping cruel and severe living conditions in their homeland. They are escaping brutality, violence, murder, rape, poverty, and political warfare.

The innocent are escaping turmoil only to come here and face entrapment.

Silvana Lezama is an activist, poet and writer/editor who has been published in La Cultural Weekly, Mitú, HipLatina and others. Born in Perú, raised in San Francisco, and is now living in Los Angeles. She has contributed content to major social media activism pages that focus on spreading social awareness. Silvana plans to use her poetry and her writing to inspire an open dialogue for healing and empowerment for POC.