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Unaccompaniend minors: The missing matter of illegal immigration

Denis Contreras, age 12, awakens after sleeping in a gravel-filled hopper car in a Tapachula, Mexico railroad yard on Aug 1, 2000. His mattress was crumpled paper, his blanket an oversize pullover with a chartreuse collar. (Don Bartletti/Los Angeles Times/MCT)

Deportation seems to be the immediate solution to control unauthorized arrivals into the U.S. based on contempt. Today, immigration debates revolve around an ethnocentric narrative that fails to put cultural differences and experiences into perspective.

During the last 10 years, thousands of Central American minors — mainly from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras — have been running away from violence and poverty. Minors put their lives at risk to achieve their dream of arriving in the U.S. and attaining safety. Some survive the treacherous journey, while others, unfortunately, are only able to dream.

Central American migrants share not only the same destination and goal of prosperity, but they also share the endangered route of the Mexican freight, commonly known as "The Beast." This 1,450 mile-long track is designed for cargo transportation rather than vulnerable, innocent children traveling alone. 

Upon arrival to the U.S.-Mexico border, unaccompanied minors are apprehended by the U.S. Immigration and Costume Enforcement, and within 72 hours are passed on to Office of Refugee Resettlement Program custody. The ORR assigns refugees to relocation facilities where they receive medical, legal and counseling services.

Anayensi Almaraz, Youth Care Worker for Tumbleweed Casa de Sueño, builds close relationships with Central American refugees who are settled in Phoenix.*

Almaraz says that Central American immigrants are constantly deported for the possession of false birth certificates. 

"Many immigrants, especially in Guatemala, buy birth certificates belonging to minors in order to identify as minors when crossing the U.S.-Mexico border," said Almaraz.

Casa de Sueño arranges legal services to provide the children with U visas or T visas.

"Our number one goal is to reunite the children with their families in the U.S.," said Almaraz.

Unauthorized immigration is of national concern that focuses on crime, rape and drug trafficking. This debate neglects the urgency of most immigrants when entering the U.S. illegally.

“We’re going to keep the families together, but they have to go." Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump said in an interview with NBC.

Trump has focused his campaign and immigration reform proposals on authorized arrival to the U.S. The GOP candidate will allegedly use his executive power as president to remove President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival. 

According to a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services report, 1,358,520 DACA requests have been approved since 2012, allowing young immigrants to pursue their professional and academic goals and "The American Dream."

Trump's "Immigration Reform that will make America Great Again” intends to put the needs of American workers first. It states: "We are the only country in the world whose immigration system puts the needs of other nations ahead of our own. That must change."

Trump supporter Rocky Granata, who sold "Make American Great Again" merchandise outside the Phoenix Convention Center on Wednesday, agreed that the immigration system needs to change.

"Children who come to the country unaccompanied should be given out for adoption and should receive the proper care they deserve," he said.

On the other hand, a Phoenix local, who goes by the nickname "PJ," said resettlement contractors use "phony churches" to give refugees donations when the American people are broke.

"The homeless vets that you see in the street are unemployed, are not getting the care, the treatment, the benefits they're entitled to, and we the people of Phoenix are offended that policies like 'sanctuary cities' are taking priority over our vets," she said.

Photo By: Charlene Santiago of Trump supporter and source, PJ

The Obama administration has deported many unauthorized immigrants. In fact, Obama's administration has deported more immigrants than any other president.

However, many Central American children continue to leave their countries and cross the U.S. border illegally. The Obama administration recently announced its new agenda proposed to help thousands of Central American minor immigrants seeking asylum. Costa Rica has agreed to accept 200 refugees during a six month period.

As citizens of a country founded on liberty, it becomes problematic when people willingly ignore to help others. One can not make assumptions and statements on issues like unauthorized immigration based on biased cultural experience. Central American children, for example, look up to the U.S. while some Americans disregard immigrants' equality as human beings. Therefore, failure to be aware of this conflict depicts our country as interculturally incompetent. 

*Locations are confidential in order to assure children's security.

Reach the columnist at or follow @santiagoc_17 on Twitter.

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Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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