18 | ENE | 2020
Thousands of children in Mexico wait for asylum in the U.S.
Underage migrants have to face a lot of violence, uncertainty and fear in their journey – Photo: EL UNIVERSAL

Thousands of children in Mexico wait for asylum in the U.S.

Ibeth Mancinas
Mexico City
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30% of the migrants in Ciudad Juárez waiting for asylum in the U.S. are minors; anguish, anxiety, fear, and identity crisis are some of the psychological effects they are suffering

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Far from the promised Eden, without covering their basic needs, fractured families and violent events that can make them suffer a migratory trauma, 2,850 underage migrants wait in Mexico for asylum in the U.S.

Out of the migrants returned from American territory to Ciudad Juárez, 30% are minors who are accompanied by one of their parents; the other stayed in their place of origin, just as siblings, grandparents and other relatives.

That is the case of Ronald, of 11 years old, who left Honduras more than two months ago, and who left back there his mother and his two sisters, “the eldest and the youngest,” he says, head down and on the verge of tears. The little boy has the dream to work and help his dad, but he mainly desires to “study in a school.”

He arrived to Juárez with his father two months ago; he ignores how long the wait will take; number 15,000 does not tell him much, but he knows that it represents something important: the appointment to appear before the U.S. Court. However, he does not know what that represents.

According to data of Mexico National Immigration Institute (INM), Ciudad Juárez has received the highest number of returned hispanophones. 288 more arrived on Tuesday, and they come to join the rest of the 9,500 already there. Out of them, almost 3,000 are minors.

The minors leave their places of origin with the illusion of arriving to the U.S., learning English, having better toys, houses and living conditions, but their parents do not tell them how difficult the journey will be, the treatment they receive in detention centers, the long hours of confinement in a refuge, or the risk of being separated.

The emotional effects. Children in this situation suffer “migratory trauma,” which is essentially configured as an identity trauma with symptoms of anguish, anxiety, sadness and insecurity, explained the specialist Amaranta Ávila Alba to EL UNIVERSAL.

The expert in Clinical Psychotherapy argued that traumatic events suffered by underage migrants can cause important psychosocial effects: “We’re talking of shy and anguished kids, whose attachment and bonding gets damaged, most of all if they’re separated from their parents, even temporarily.”

Ávila Alba highlighted that the minors are taken from their first context, that is, the family, a situation that prevents them to develop a solid identity. Also, they are removed from a social context in which they had their basic and self-realization needs covered.

“Children in migratory situation have no habits or defined routines, a territory with which they identify and ignore what’s going to happen or where they are going to be the next morning,” she explained.

She added that the different traumatic and violent events underage migrants live from the moment they leave their houses, their environment and leave a part of their family, create a crack that could have repercussions in their adult life and that, in some cases, is noticeable right now.

“There are kids who don’t want to separate from their parents and cry when they are left alone even just to take a bath; others are very quiet, they barely play or talk to anyone,” said one of the volunteers of the refuge “El Buen Samaritano.”


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