Face to Face: “El Extranjero” (“The Foreigner”)
Poverty and violence are push factors that have caused a surge in child migration to the U.S. from countries like Guatemala, which has the highest child malnutrition rate in the Western Hemisphere. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)
By Bianca Brown
When Angelica* was eight years old, she lived with her mother in a small village in Guatemala, where hunger and poverty were rampant. Angelica’s mother had heard of opportunities in America for better jobs and schools for her child. Gathering all of her savings, she paid a man to bring her family across the border to the United States.
Angelica and her mother were separated once they reached the States. Four years later, Angelica found herself abused, beaten, and prostituted by the man who had brought her across the border. Once, she managed to speak with a caseworker at an immigration assimilation office, where I heard her story.
Angelica is one of the many unaccompanied immigrant children who are victims of human trafficking as a result of hunger and poverty in their home countries. More than 60,000 children are in danger of becoming victims of abuse and trafficking. We can’t afford to ignore the root causes of this mass migration: hunger and poverty. Without addressing the causes of immigration from Latin America, U.S. immigration policy will be ineffective in stemming the flow of unauthorized immigrants.
Angelica’s account shares how constructive immigration reform is beneficial to those seeking citizenship—especially unaccompanied minors. Kept in the shadows, these people live on the margins of society hoping for change. Angelica’s caseworker begged her to tell them if she wanted help out of her situation, the law preventing action otherwise. Angelica replied, “No one will want to help me…who would want to help an alien?”
These families live in fear of their undocumented status, sometimes going hungry in the United States. The current system relegates unauthorized immigrants to the bottom of the U.S. socioeconomic system. U.S. immigration policy does not enable immigrants to break the cycle of poverty by allowing them opportunities to improve their lives and those of their families by advancing professionally, pursuing further education, and fully integrating into their communities.
Comprehensive immigration reform will allow families to make a better life for themselves and their children.
Call (800-826-3688) or email your U.S. representative and your U.S. senators! Simply say: I urge you to respond to the surge of unaccompanied children crossing the border. Please pass legislation that addresses the conditions of poverty, hunger, and violence in Central America that are forcing them to leave.
*Child’s name changed to remain confidential.
Bianca Brown is an intern in Bread for the World's communications department and a senior at Georgia's Wesleyan College.
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