WEST MICHIGAN (June 30, 2014) — Children crossing the US-Mexico border without a parent or legal guardian is challenging the United States government and border patrol.
“Well, it’s definitely a humanitarian crisis,” Carlos Sanchez, interim executive director for the Hispanic Center of West Michigan, said.
The youth are called “unaccompanied minors,” and tens of thousands are said to be making their way across the border.
Sanchez said finding the children homes in the U.S. may sound like a good thing, but he said part of the dilemma is “we don’t know what the [child's] situation is.” For example, the child may have been trafficked to the U.S. and wants to return home.
The Hispanic Center of West Michigan is a resource for the migrant population and faith-based organizations that work with them. Sanchez said West Michigan is one of few specially designated regions in the U.S. that receives refugees. That’s because of the organizations and support systems that exist here.
The question Sanchez said often pops up is, how did an “underage refugee” get here seemingly alone?
According to the Office of Refugee Resettlement in Washington DC:
- The yearly average of unaccompanied children entering the US was 7 to 8 thousand, up until 2011.
- In 2013, that number jumped to 24,668
- In 2014, the projected number of unaccompanied minors crossing the border is 60,000
Sanchez said some children flee war-torn countries, such as the case now in Central America. However, he said it’s not a one size fits all.
“It seems that there was more of an organized way that kids ended up at the U.S. soil,” he said that calls into question human trafficking.
Trafficking is known to target a vulnerable population.
“I would assume that most of them, if not all, have parents… by bringing them to West Michigan, are we really tearing them apart from their families, maybe their parents are missing them at home?” he questioned.
He added, “But while they’re here, we need to treat them as humanly caring as possible.”
The federal government states that many of the children are coming from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras and only 3 percent from Mexico.