News / USA

    Child Migrants in New York Often Find Their Harrowing Journey Must Continue

    Adam Phillips
    The Department of Homeland Security reports that an estimated 47,000 unaccompanied children, some as young as seven, entered the United States illegally from the southwestern border region from October 2013 through the end of May 2014.  That represents a greater than 100 percent increase over the entire previous year.  Most of those kids were hoping to reunite with their parents in the U.S. while fleeing the epidemic of gang violence and civil unrest in Central America and Mexico. Many reported being assaulted or raped on their journey north. The New York Immigration Coalition is trying to bring attention to the legal and humanitarian crisis faced by these young refugees.
     
    Most of the child migrants Heather Axford represents are fleeing gang violence back home. The attorney at the Central American Legal Assistance organization says that in El Salvador, for instance, much of the menace stems from the Mara Salvatrucha, a criminal group that, ironically, was formed in Los Angeles during the 1980s.
     
    “They are recruiting kids as young as 10 to do things like sell drugs, to collect extortion. And kids who refuse to be recruited, who refuse to cooperate with the Mara Salvatrucha, they are murdered. They are tortured and they are murdered,” said Axford.
     
    Once these kids arrive in the United States, their psychological, emotional and physical wounds can be severe, said Mario Russell of Catholic Charities, which helps run a one-stop clinic that includes group therapy.
     
    “Ten or 12 boys will get in a room together and they will talk about their experiences. And it’s amazing to see how they are finding solidarity, comfort, understanding and sense of peace.  They get medical screening. They get dental assistance. They get food. They get this kind of totality of services. We keep them in the game,” said Russell.
     
    That game involves law enforcement. Undocumented child migrants are placed in juvenile detention centers, while they await immigration and deportation hearings. Most children simply want to reunite with their families, who may be living in the U.S. illegally. However, that is a difficult task according to attorney Lenni Benson, the founder of the New York Law School’s Safe Passage Project, a non-profit, mostly volunteer organization of lawyers who represent children in immigration courts.
     
    “There’s no legal way to come to the United States if you’re a child and your parents are living here without papers,” said Benson. “Even if your parents have papers, with the delays and the quota system, it may take five, six years to sponsor a child.”
     
    American immigration law does provide asylum status for people who can prove they are fleeing government violence due to race, religion, nationality, social group or political opinion. But it specifically excludes victims of so-called “generalized violence” or criminal activity.
      
    However, attorney Heather Axford has successfully argued before the Court that in some places, criminal organizations are powerful and pervasive enough to be considered de facto governing authorities, especially where the official government is too weak or too corrupt to protect its citizens.  
     
    “So why is that kid who is refusing to cooperate any different than refusing to pay your tithing to the Taliban - which would be given asylum? Or why is it any different than refusing to cooperate with the ruling political party?” asked Axford.
     
    Such questions are sure to increase in urgency over the coming months, if, as expected, immigration reform continues to languish in Congress, and the number of child migrants continues to skyrocket.

    You May Like

    Russian-Backed Offensive in Syria Pushes War to Tipping Point

    As threat to Aleppo and rebel forces grows, US plan to negotiate becomes less and less appealing for Syrian government, says one military analyst

    IS Runs Timber Smuggling Business in Afghanistan, Officials Say

    Government turning blind eye to smuggling, according to tribal leaders; Afghanistan's forest cover dropped by 50 percent in three decades, experts say

    Video White House Seeks $1.8 Billion to Combat Zika

    Obama administration says funding would 'support essential strategies to combat the virus' such as rapidly expanding mosquito control programs, accelerating vaccine research

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.