We have all seen recent images of foreign children in overcrowded detention centers in Texas. These minors from Central America and Mexico entered the U.S. illegally through the US/Mexico border. This trend is taking unprecedented proportions: Border Patrol agents and detention facilities are overwhelmed, children stacked in insalubrious conditions. But they are not kept there for long; these children will be released very quickly provided they attend their court hearing set in the following two weeks. “Absconsion” will probably be the norm. Moreover, once out there, it will be difficult for ICE to find them. They know that, or should I say, the adults “responsible” for them, their parents, relatives, not only know it but are betting on it.
Children are being endangered, used as bait to allow their adult relatives a free pass into the United States. If it’s not by definition child trafficking, it sure resembles it. It is true that child trafficking usually involves child labor (and at times sex work). Here the aim is different. Children are used for immigration and citizenship purposes. They are used nonetheless. Parents might be driven by the desire to secure a better life for their children, that does not render the fact that they sent their children alone, possible innocent preys to smugglers, criminals or sexual abusers any less reprehensible.
An image keeps popping in my head, one I saw on several occasions in my country of origin, Lebanon. Buses full of children driven to different locations, dropped on the streets. The same buses picked them up at the end of the day. The children spent their days on the roads, begging for change, selling gum or faded roses. Those in charge, the adults who ran this “business”, collected the money raised throughout the day, dividing the profits between themselves and the children’s parents. The local government did nothing – some say could do nothing – to stop this exploitation.
This is not to say that we are witnessing the same horrid acts in the United States today, but similarities can be drawn. Whether for financial gains or access to American soil, children are being used by those who are supposed to protect them the most (again, their intentions might be honorable but their actions aren’t). Children are also let down by the system that stands watching, helpless at best.
It’s funny, or rather sad, how the Obama administration is dealing with this flow of unaccompanied minors in Texas. If we didn’t know better, we’d think they were orchestrating it. What is certain is that their amnesty promises and their refusal to enforce most immigration laws are inducing this phenomenon. As if this was not enough, additional measures are being introduced relating to the renewal of the enrollment in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Parents of those minors know very well they will be met with “understanding” (if not open arms) by the current administration. That is why they are sending their children across the Mexican border.
This is perhaps not a case of child trafficking as most people understand it. It is nevertheless, at minimum, a case of exploitation and endangerment from the sending side, and a case of “active complicity” from the receiving side, the current U.S. administration.