View From Here: Immigration
The crisis of illegal immigrant young people at the southern U.S. border is not as far away as you might think. CNN reports that Chris Cabrera, Vice President of the National Border Patrol Council in the Rio Grande Valley, a U.S. Border Patrol workers’ union said that more than 60,000 unaccompanied juveniles are expected to cross in 2014. “Most of the time they’re getting released to relatives in the U.S.,” Cabrera said. “There’s nowhere to put them, so they’re released on their own recognizance and have a pending court date. I’d say between 95 and 97% of adults or youths don’t show up for court,” he said.
According to the 2010 Census, New York City has over 328,018 Mexicans and 1,309,807 Hispanics or Latinos who are neither Cuban or Puerto Rican. The New York Times reported that “while the government’s response has been largely focused on the Southwest, the surge of child migrants is quickly becoming a crisis around the country. The fallout is being felt most acutely in places with large immigrant populations, like New York, where newly arrived children and their relatives are flooding community groups, seeking help in fighting deportation orders, getting health care, dealing with the psychological traumas of migration, managing the challenges of family reunification and enrolling in school”.
There is great concern for their health and safety, and while they’re here they have to be provided with an education and counseling for the trauma they had at home and the dangers and hardships they faced in the journey across the border. Dangers and hardships such as faced in Brownsville moving from development to development. Sort of like the dangers of being caught in a cross fire while walking in the park, or of being made into the essential raw material for the criminal justice industry, or the intergenerational emotional trauma and systemic racist abuse. Faced with all of that, where do our young people run to? The border they have to cross is between despair and opportunity, and as money is found to care for young people who came here illegally, why was it not available to deal with the crisis of violence, despair and trauma that exists daily among the youth already in our community?
If there is money found for education, why wasn’t it already being used to have music and art and extra math in schools throughout the system? As resources are found for health and welfare for illegal immigrants, why isn’t it already being used to make enhanced after-school centers the rule, not just with longer hours but as safe places with tutoring and quiet places, with seminars and workshops, social services, current technology and all manner of resources where our young people can run away to and immerse themselves?
So while we open our doors and welcome the stranger, let’s make it as short a visit as possible. First we need to tend to the young people in our own communities, and then the milk of human kindness can flow to others.
Some Good News
I think Nelson Mandela would have been very pleased with the celebration that Principal Bernard Gassaway and his team at Boys and Girls High School put on when they planted a tree in his honor, walked for 67 minutes representing the community service that each should give, opened a school in his name and gave it to their field as well.
The newly named Nelson Mandela Athletic Field was teeming with young people whose decorum was outstanding and whose laughter and excitement was infectious. Students from South Africa met schoolmates from Medgar Evers Prep, community organizations brought information of services and positive opportunities and when the drum major blew his whistle, signaling the beginning of the march around the field, the majorettes began their prance and the young brother wearing the big bass drum set the beat, and they were followed by hundreds of young people color-coded in groups, with South African diplomats, religious leaders and community folks bringing up the rear. Contributing writers Gerard Miller, Bernice Elizabeth Green and Dr. Olivia Cousins (whose photos of the event appear in this issue) tell the complete story of this awesome day.