If you’re a parent, it might be shocking to imagine young children fleeing from violence to travel to another country in hopes of finding safety. Tragically, this is the case for thousands of minor immigrants in Florida and other states. According to the Center for American Progress, incidents of children traveling to the United States by themselves increased at least 92 percent in 2014 from the year before. The main reason for children running from Central America to the United States is violence.
You may also be shocked and dismayed to learn what many of these young immigrants endure on their way to our country, as well as what awaits them after they arrive. Many leave their hometowns because they are being coerced to join local gangs or be killed. Others flee to escape drug violence, sexual assault and other dangers. In the past, most minor immigrants were teenage males, but more girls are joining the group, as well as younger children under the age of 10. Many children are targeted by human traffickers posing as immigrant smugglers on the way. Girls are often raped during the journey, and many other children are forcibly recruited to join drug gangs.
After arriving in the U.S., unaccompanied children are put into temporary housing facilities. Most are released to family members or sponsors within a few weeks. However, their ordeal is far from over. Children may face deportation after arriving in our country. They will also have to deal with the overwhelming challenges faced by nearly all immigrants, which may include language barriers, social differences and prejudice. Many are also dealing with emotional and physical trauma. It may help foster compassion to understand the hardships that young immigrants face while fleeing their home countries and trying to start over in America.