What’s at Stake for Children at the Border

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What’s at Stake for Children at the Border

Stephanie Thompson, Reporter

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Border walls. Detention camps. Children separated from their families.

Immigration in the United States is a major problem, with continuous deportations and the border wall crisis reaching an all time high. In fact, according to the New York Times in March, “the [migrant] system is well beyond capacity, and remains at the breaking point.” Especially for young children, complicated immigration can be traumatic. 

According to the Associated Press, the detention camp in Clint, Texas, is holding 250 infants, children and teenagers. The report explains how there is an inadequate amount of food, water and sanitation. In discussion with PBS News Hour, Warren Binford, a law professor at Willamette University, told PBS “Basically, what we saw are dirty children who are malnourished, who are being severely neglected. They are being kept in inhumane conditions. They are essentially being warehoused, as many as 300 children in a cell, with almost no adult supervision.”

San Francisco is a prominent sanctuary city, a place where local officials limit cooperation with the federal government’s immigration enforcement. It has a very diverse crowd, with people from different communities, sexualities and ethnicities coming together. Some residents of San Francisco believe that immigration, especially for children, is a major problem.

“Of course [immigration] is a problem. They don’t accept the immigrants here,” said 53-year-old Viviana Vilches. “[Immigration] is such a big problem because the rules the government put now.” She believes that with these unjust rules in place, children will have difficulties growing up.

26-year-old Melissa Chen explains that “there’s a lot of human rights violations at the borders that’s the issue of us not giving sanctuary to a lot of people try to come, not giving people the space.” Since these children aren’t given the space and environment to develop, their whole childhood is focused primarily on surviving rather than growing up.

The emotional and mental health and development of young children is essential to have a successful adult life. However, when this critical stage is disrupted by a devastating event, the wellbeing of the child can decrease tremendously. 

According to the Child Mind Institute, 17.1 million young people have a psychiatric disorder, with anxiety being the leading illness, affecting 80% of youth. Although 49.5% of children have a diagnosable mental illness, only 7.4% get mental health check ups annually.

Those numbers are alarming. 

One could imagine that with many suffering from various mental illnesses, children being placed in detention camps suffer more due to the great stress oppressed upon them. Having no safe place to retreat to forces them to cope within the camp walls. However, being in a home would have allowed for the improvement of their mental and emotional health in a comfortable setting. 

23-year-old Leonardo Arvizu from Seattle, Washington thinks that these children having stable homes will influence them to be more productive in society. 

“If they had better housing,  they would be focused on more education. If they have that support then they would be able to give that support back to the community.” 

He believes that home is everything for a child. “I know a lot of foster students that don’t have the support that I grew up with. Me, I’ve always had my parents behind me to support me and doing all that stuff, but I know a lot of people that are in orphanages and foster care, and they fell off and … went in [a] different path than I went to, more of a negative way.”

Viviana Vilches also agrees that without reliable homes for children, their mental health is affected, saying,“If they are not stable, they will have trouble growing up and they don’t have anything stable in life.” 

But what exactly is a home?  “Home” is an umbrella term, because its meaning isn’t concrete. Some might say home is a building with a roof, a culture they’re immersed in or a community in which they feel safe, like the LGBTQ+ community.

To Arvizu, home means security, an actual physical place.Vilches believes home is “a mix between a place and a family.” 

“Home is where you feel comfortable, safe, you have the privacy to do what you want, and to be how you want to be and to thrive in that sense and just to figure out what you want in life.” Chen explains. “[Home] definitely has a sense of a space… It translates to ‘I have the space to be and to live’. There’s a lot of symbolism of comfort and love that I think that we use in other places, in say, symbolism of literature and stuff,  I think tied to a place.” 

With the Bay Bridge in the distance, San Francisco is a colorful, decorative city with different communities and cultures coming together.

To these immigrant children stuck in detention camps, who are living in a more difficult situation, establishing a home and what it truly means to them is challenging. Because of the traumatic experience they endure, home isn’t something that these young individuals think about. They simply don’t have enough time to. Instead they’re thinking about how they’re going to make it through the next day.

About the Writer
Photo of Stephanie Thompson
Stephanie Thompson, Reporter

Stephanie Thompson is a rising Junior attending Davis Senior High School. Next year she is going to join The Hub and write for her school newspaper. She...

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