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Child Refugee Crisis of 2014: What’s in a Name?

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Ruby Galvez Roblero studies her school work at home in rural Guatemala. Her school is a direct beneficiary of USAID'S Food for Education, a program designed to help disadvantaged children perform better in school through increased nutrition (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World).

By Arnulfo Moreno

The border crisis: This was the overarching theme at this year’s convention for the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. Specifically the conference focused on how we should be talking about this humanitarian crisis, literally what words we should be using.

We hear that the unaccompanied minors were held at immigrant detention centers, then taken to an immigration court and had an immigration hearing. Webster’s, Oxford, and Wikipedia all agree that an immigrant is a person who comes to live permanently in a foreign country. Is that what these children are looking for, to live permanently in a foreign country? Is that why they left their home countries?

The ravaging effects of hunger, poverty, and violence are diminished under the term immigrant. The stunting and malnutrition that affect many of these children is concealed.   

Jonathan Ryan, executive director of RAICES (Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services), summed it up perfectly: “They are not coming here for summer camp. They are fleeing violence, seeking protection.”

A person who flees for refuge or safety is a refugee. These children aren’t coming here because they want to leave their loved ones and their countries behind. They are fleeing here because, for many, staying at home means a life of hunger, poverty, and violence. For some, it can mean certain death.

Violence, though only part of this complex issue, has played and continues to play a huge role in this recent migration. Gangs and drug cartels make more on narcotics and sex trafficking than the gross national product of many Central American countries. With this type of power comes the ability to oppress and terrorize. Until the situation in these countries improves, are we supposed to turn our backs on these child refugees just because they are not fleeing organized government oppression but instead organized crime? Should we wait until these crime syndicates declare themselves a government and come clean about the violence they are inflicting on these children?

Hopefully we can acknowledge these children as refugees and not downplay the reality that faces them. I can think of an even better label for these unaccompanied minors: human beings.

Learn more about the Child Regugee Crisis of 2014 here:  www.bread.org/indistrict

Arnulfo Moreno is the media relations specialist at Bread for the World.

 

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