Humanitarian Crisis? Traveling Unaccompanied?: Reflections on Government Framing (Part 3)

Reflection 4: These minors travel accompanied by adult relatives and despite the human label, they become criminals in just two weeks.

Though most of these audacious young people do travel alone, a significant number do not. Contact with these children and their families informs my assertion that at least 15 percent of "unaccompanied" children actually travel accompanied by an adult family member who could very well be their mother, their older sister or brother, or their aunt or uncle. The claim that we hear over and over again of them traveling "unaccompanied" serves to obfuscate and diverge attention from the tremendous growing grip that criminalizing entities, such as ICE, have on the bodies of poor non-whites in this country. It's contradictory that this latter agency purportedly procures the care and safety of these poor brown children at the border on the one hand while it places these same children in adverse contact with the criminal justice system (when processing them at the detention centers at the border and once outside the transitional shelters), on the other.

Though much of the media coverage has focused on the actual influx of these children, the placement of these children in different states, or Washington politics around funds requested by President Obama for the relief of these children, attention to these latter points conceals the fact that these kids' notices to appear act as a mechanism that directly links these children to a larger body of criminalized poor bodies of color in this country. Once they cross the border, are detained by ICE, and get processed at one of the detention centers at the border, their information is housed in a government database that marks them as "aliens" without permission to stay in this country. In other words, they exist in this country as criminals. These notices to appear act as one more factor that can funnel these children into facilities that erase their very existence from our society and our communities.

Can a poor person of color in this country exist without ever being forced into adverse contact with the criminal justice system? I believe the answer is in the negative.

Overall, using the term "human" has been disingenuous all along because our government's role in addressing this child influx are false gestures that only attempt to "help" while leaving structural inequalities intact.

If we really cared about these children and their humanity, they would at the very least have a legitimate place at the decision-making table in Washington when it came to addressing this issue. As the only experts of their lives, these kids would be considered co-policy makers and would oversee and evaluate the implementation of their own ideas. Given the clear antagonism between these children as "non-human" and their oppressive counterparts, I am confident that these children's presence in this country will serve to reclaim their humanity by any means they deem necessary.