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Guatemalan Children Who Crossed The Border Tell Their Stories

by Christine Stuart | Jul 3, 2014 11:42am
(7) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Immigration, Hartford, New Haven

Christine Stuart photo

Luis Miguel Diaz Calel in the blue shirt on the right and Anabelia Maribel Diaz Hernandez on the left talk to U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Rosario Caicedo

When Luis Miguel Diaz Calel and Anabelia Maribel Diaz Hernandez were picked up April 14 by immigration police at the U.S. border, they were taken to a detention center they called the “icebox.”

Calel and Hernandez, who are both 16, told their story Thursday to U.S. Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal after a press conference about the surge unaccompanied Central American children arriving at the border.

Once they got across the border, they were picked up by police and taken to the “icebox,” which Rosario Caicedo, of Unidad Latina en Accion, described as a workhouse. Calel and Hernandez said they slept on the ground and many of the children got sick from the extreme air conditioning.

“They were not treated in the nicest way and then everything they were carrying was taken away from them,” Caicedo said.

Murphy asked about the conditions Calel was escaping in his home country of Guatemala.

“It’s very difficult,” Caicedo translated. “There’s an enormous amount of violence. There’s an enormous amount of poverty. He couldn’t go to school because he had to help his family and work in the fields.”

Caicedo said there’s a lot of gangs and they are afraid to leave the house, but home was not a safe place either. Calel and Hernandez both experienced domestic violence.

Christine Stuart photo

Selvin Omar Martinez Lopez

Selvin Omar Martinez Lopez, 9, who is also from Guatemala said the process of crossing the border was arduous. They would have to take many trains and he saw people fall from the train and get crushed.

Calel and Hernandez are now living with their older brother in New Haven. They arrived in Connecticut on June 6. Lopez crossed the border with his mother in December and is also living in New Haven.

Caicedo said there are so many of these unaccompanied children it’s hard to say exactly how many may be here in Connecticut.

However, her organization has been vocal about President Barack Obama’s plan to change a 2008 law and speed up deportations of these children.

“We demand that Obama continue to treat migrant children as refugees in keeping with international human rights conventions instead of requesting $20,000 dollars per child from Congress to incarcerate and deport them,” Unidad Latina en Accion said in a statement.

Some children believed they would be given leniency from the U.S. because Obama granted temporary legal status to undocumented children who were brought to the U.S. by their parents. But in order to qualify for that status, a child would have had to have been living in the United States continuously since 2007.

Vice President Joe Biden traveled to Guatemala last month to set the record straight and warn against the perils of a trip north. The U.S. government recently launched a $1 million media campaign in Central American countries to reinforce the message that the trip is dangerous and immigrants who make it won’t be able to stay.

According to the Associated Press, more than 52,000 unaccompanied children have been detained since last October after entering the U.S. illegally, mostly in South Texas.

Christine Stuart photo

U.S. Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal

Murphy and Blumenthal described the situation as a “humanitarian crisis.”

“They are almost universally fleeing horrible violence in their home countries of Central America,” Murphy said.

He said the U.S. needs to treat these children as refugees and not as illegal immigrants it plans to deport.

“There are a large number of these children who cannot be sent back to their home country because of threats of violence and the inability to reunify with families,” Murphy said.

Blumenthal said there has to be a process set up where each of these children is afforded due process.

President Barack Obama has called upon Congress to authorize $2 billion to assist with this crisis.

Murphy and Blumenthal were adamant that deporting these children is not the answer. In the short-term, there’s going to have to be a process set up where the government decides which children are united with their families already living in the U.S.

In the long-term, Congress needs to pass comprehensive immigration reform, the two Senators said.

“We think that this crisis should prompt Congress to action,” Murphy said. “We hope that compassionate members of the House of Representatives will take a second look at a comprehensive immigration reform bill that has a lot of tools within that will help with this crisis.”

Murphy agreed with Blumenthal that immigration reform is not dead, “but it is certainly on life-support given the complete unwillingness of the Tea Party in the House of Representatives to take this up.”

Murphy said he hopes this crisis of unaccompanied children changes the political dynamics.

He said Congress was able to come together and pass a $1 billion aid package for the crisis in Ukraine. He said he hoped they could unite over this issue, too.

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(7) Comments

posted by: Historian | July 3, 2014  12:35pm

Since the Spanish American war in 1898 the United States has fallen prey repeatedly to “Christian values of benevolent concern and action toward the benighted of other countries - Cuba, Philipines, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic,China, Vietnam,Panama,Iraq, Afganistan,etc etc, etc. 
  For the most part it was a waste of our men, our treasure and our reputation while we have become financially weakened and emotionally drained. 
  Now again we are being confronted with the same tales of woe that sent American troops ashore in Cuba in 1898 and repeatedly since then all over the world - in the last weeks alone once again in Iraq.
  The United States cannot be the World’s Godfather. We do not have the treasure, the manpower or the will to nurse all and survive.

posted by: UConnHoop | July 3, 2014  1:03pm

Gee, I wonder why they chose New Haven to locate?  There is currently a flood of unaccompanied teenagers who are literally overrunning the border states.  We are a nation of LEGAL immigrants as well as a nation of LAWS!  What part of these two concepts do our esteemed Senators not understand?

posted by: PWS2003 | July 3, 2014  1:13pm

If the US spent more time thinking about Central America and less about the Middle East and Ukraine this would not be happening. Maybe if they discovered oil there our country’s elite would change course but more cheap labor is more of what they want. it also works to divide us and distract us from the new gilded age. But this 1 percent party will end, the only answer is will it be peaceful or otherwise.

posted by: One and Done | July 4, 2014  5:10am

God help them if they land help from DCF.  Poor kids.  Their safety and bloodshed is on the President’s hands.  Words have meaning and consequences.  Something he has failed to learn in six years now.

posted by: jim black | July 4, 2014  5:16am

Sure, it"s the tea party’s fault that Obama won’t enforce the existing laws.

posted by: cometothetable | July 4, 2014  6:32am

Heartbreaking. But ya know what? I’m tired of taxpayers paying for the world and not our own. Sorry. I have a family member who is working HARD to FOLLOW THE RULES, getting his green card, paying taxes, raising a family…and guess what?  CAN NOT GET MEDICAL INSURANCE!!! WHY? Because “he hasn’t been in the country long enough” EXACT QUOTE!!! From DHHS!! They “don’t count the time his application was being processed for his card! So he needs to WAIT another year and a half before he can get Husky (like his wife and baby…his income qualifies him)...BUT, he CAN pay $350 a month if he goes thru the AFFORDABLE (ha!) Care program.  Now you tell me WHO this administration is REALLY caring for??  This “immigration” stuff is so lopsided, and our elected officials ALL speak with forked tongues.

posted by: shinningstars122 | July 4, 2014  12:14pm

shinningstars122

Regardless if you are legal or illegal we are a country of immigrants…that was one of the main reason of country’s creation.

I hate to say this but the xenophobia of too many “real” Americans is becoming panifully obvious.

Whether it is on this site or any other through our country.

It just sickens me.

I do agree this is a humanitarian crisis and people like Rick Perry, who is now calling for a militarization of the Texas border, are politicizing it for their own selfish gain.

Is that really what we want to become?

It’s too late we already have.