The situation with the numbers of children traveling to the United States has touched our hearts. The number has doubled each year since 2011 and the US government estimates that by the end of FY 2014, over 90,000 unaccompanied children will have arrived, and it will continue to increase each year if we do not work together to fix our broken immigration system, to address international trade policies and to examine the root causes that are forcing children to leave home and come to the U.S.A in the first place.
These unaccompanied migrant children, mostly from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, are fleeing violence due to gangs, drugs and poverty. Many have experienced things that no child should ever have to go through, including seeing friends and family murdered, abused, raped, and/or trafficked. These children are literally running for their lives, enduring dangerous situations for even just a chance at safety and freedom. Some children as young as 5-years-old are willing to ride “the beast”, (the train atop which children ride for thousands of miles from Guatemala to Texas), in order to escape the violence. And, unfortunately, many are injured or die along the way.
The current influx of children traveling alone is now more than a border control issue. It is a humanitarian crisis declared by the United Nations that requires a moral and compassionate response to the immediate needs of these children, as well as a long-term response that addresses the root causes of the migration which date back several decades. Our immediate concern must be to ensure the safety, needs, and rights of children and families fleeing violence and persecution. We call on Congress to ensure their protection and care. We also call upon Congress and the administration to join the international community in responding to this crisis with regards to long term solutions that will end the violence and poverty, and other push factors that result in children fleeing their homes for safety.
Sisters and Brothers of Immigrants, August 8, 2014 www.sistersandbrothersofimmigrants.org