FIU experts highlight crisis of undocumented children

Bryan Palacio/Assistant News Director

A little 8-year-old boy stands in a courtroom, alone and in a foreign land.

Juan Carlos Gomez, director of the Immigration and Human Rights Clinic, stands by the boy’s side, representing him as one of the many undocumented children seeking asylum in Miami.

Gomez spoke about his first-hand experience dealing with these children at a University colloquium on Sept. 2 at Modesto Maidique Campus on the topic of the humanitarian crisis at hand with thousands of Central American children at the United States border.

Many of these kids are sent with paid smugglers—known as Coyotes—and face numerous difficult situations.

Violence, drug abuse and rape are just some of the extreme experiences they encounter on their way to the United States—then they still have to go through the legal system.

Gomez said it is not realistic for an these children to understand a law proceeding, especially one from a different country with another language.

“It’s funny to see them running through the halls of the immigration building,” said Gomez. “They don’t understand the severity of the situation.”

Once they get through the grueling process of making it to the U.S. and gaining asylum, they still face the daunting task of making a living here, probably without an education.

“Sadly, most of these kids are not given an opportunity at education,” said Gomez. “In the U.S. there is no right to an education, there is only an equal access right.”

At the University, these undocumented students can apply to the  Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program, and the Florida Legislature recently granted undocumented students in-state tuition, giving them a better to be able to afford college.

“If we fail to treat these children the way we would want our own children to be treated, then we failed as a country,” said Erik Camayd-Freixas, Spanish professor from the Department of Modern Languages and director of the Translation & Interpretation Program.

Freixas also reflected on his own first-hand experience of the situation. He traveled all throughout Central America and spoke with countless immigrants and prisoners who have traveled back and forth to the U.S. He not only has heard the accounts of hardship, tragedy, and sacrifice in search of a better life, he’s witnessed them, too.

With both Democrats and Republicans being gridlocked on immigration reform, there isn’t a lot of optimism on solving the issue.

“The changes in the law do not fix the parts of the law that don’t make sense,” Gomez said.

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