Children at the border: A ‘crisis’ decades in the making

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Latino USA, a program you can hear on NPR, dedicated its most recent episode to the issue of unaccompanied children making their way to U.S. borders.

It’s a worthwhile listen, especially if you’re looking for important historical context about a complicated issue created by the dynamic interplay of several factors, including grinding poverty and gang warfare in Central American countries, Cold War foreign policy and U.S. deportation practices.

The issue touches New Mexico in particular. Federal authorities have converted a border patrol facility in Artesia to host Central American immigrants, where some women have complained of the lack of medical care for their children.

More than once in this latest episode the folks at Latino USA raise a question that’s puzzled me too. Why did the American media suddenly pounce on a story that’s not all that new? Unaccompanied minors have been traveling to the United States for years. For proof, read Enrique’s Journey, a six-part series that ran in the Los Angeles Times in 2002.

Sonia Nazario, a Times staff writer at the time, chronicled “the journey of Enrique, who traveled alone from Honduras as a teenager in search of his mother in the United States.”  The Pulitzer board thought enough of the series to award Nazario the 2003 Pulitzer for feature writing. Since then, Nazario has turned her series into a book entitled Enrique’s Journey.

Here’s how Latino USA describes its episode:

We break down some central American history. An ex-gang member from El Salvador tells us his story. Luis Argueta, Guatemalan filmmaker, shares testimonials revealing the reality in Guatemala. We learn about coyotes, those responsible for smuggling the children. And we examine how the media has shaped this story.

Click here to listen to the episode. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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