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A Plan to Make Care of Migrant Children in Federal Custody Transparent

LatinaLista — In an edited translation of an article published in Mexico City’s El Financiero last Thursday, it was stated that a Mexican organizaton released statistics that show that on average, 32 underage boys and girls try to cross into the United States on a daily basis.

“According to data from DIF [National System for Integral Family Development] and private shelters, where the young [deportees] detained by the U.S. Border Patrol are taken, last year more than 20,000 children, 2,000 more than in 2005 and almost twice as many as in 2004, traveled on their own to the border in order to cross illegally into the United States, which represents 15 percent of the total registered migration movement.

Those children who were caught by the US Border Patrol used to be sent to several child migrant detention facilities. One such privately held facility was in Nixon, Texas run by a company called Texas Sheltered Care.

The problem was that the place was far from any kind of shelter for these children already traumatized by making such a trip just to reach our country.

Earlier this month, the facility was shut down amid reports of the children being sexually abused.

There was even an official report of a young girl who became pregnant at the facility.

At any rate, all of the children were sent to other facilities to wait out the next bureacratic decision of where to place them. In the meantime, the San Antonio Express-News reported that the investigation into the case has gotten nowhere fast. Though suspects have been identified, there have been no arrests or charges filed.

Talk about not having a voice.

Because these children traveled alone, they’re not only voiceless but invisible to the system.

Now comes word from Texas Rep. Solomon Ortiz of Corpus Christi that a $3.3 million grant to provide temporary housing in Los Fresnos, Texas to migrant children has been approved and awarded to International Educational Services, Inc.

The grant is to cover the housing for migrant children under 18 who are from countries other than Mexico and who have been arrested by the Border Patrol.

Rep. Ortiz has gone on record as saying that he considers it the nation’s duty to help these children.

Of that, there is no dispute. In fact, UNICEF, the branch of the United Nations dedicated to protecting the rights of children spearheads support that it is every nation’s duty to protect children.

But with a frequent history in the state of Texas of children and youth being abused while in detention facilities, either run by the state or federal agencies, there is little reason to think that the children placed in this new facility will be entirely safe.

To look out for the welfare of these children and keep the situation transparent, there should be a third party authorized to oversee the care of the children.

Ideally, it should be a volunteer group of local women who can make spontaneous visits to the facility, speak to the children, review their care and instruction and ensure that these children are not further traumatized.

Though it may sound like gender bias to say women’s organizaton, the fact is these young children came here looking for their mothers in most cases and would feel more relaxed with women.

Through this personal interaction and accountability, the children’s stay would not only be better monitored but their cases may not linger as long either.

At any rate, it’s time there were changes in how migrant children are incarcerated to ensure safety and psychological well-being of children who only want to be with their parents who left them in the first place with promises of returning with a better life.

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