February 18, 2019
Rossy, Bethany's Lead Case Manager for Unaccompanied Children, reflect on her recent visit to Tijuana, Mexico.
I was born and raised in the highlands of Guatemala. My family is what some might call “dirt poor.” We grow vegetables, corn, and coffee—literally using our hands in the dirt to meet our needs.
I have ached all my life watching my family work so hard, yet never have enough. But I always knew I could help my family by furthering my education.
In ninth grade, I earned a scholarship to come to the United States for high school and quickly learned the power of combining education with opportunity. Today I am completing a master’s degree in political science focused on international development.
And, now, I am grateful that my education has enabled me to help children who are fleeing Central America in search of safety.
I recently traveled with my Bethany colleagues to Tijuana, Mexico at the U.S. southern border. I tried to imagine what I might see, smell, and touch there, but I soon realized that nothing could have truly prepared me for the humanitarian crisis I witnessed.
I saw people who had experienced deep loss and trauma. They were hurting as they remembered everything they'd left behind. But I also witnessed the resiliency of the human spirit.
Our team’s purpose in Tijuana was to verify whether asylum-seeking children and families are safe in Mexico. Sadly, we found evidence that they are far from safe, especially the children. We spoke with kids and families who had fled gang violence and political intimidation in Central America. We met others who had been shot or extorted.
The situation is even more dire for kids who travel to the border alone. Commonly known as unaccompanied children, many of these kids are between the ages of 12-17 – some even younger. These kids are truly alone and have no one to care for them or keep them safe.
Unaccompanied Central American children have a right to seek asylum in the U.S. – and a right to do so safely. Sadly, the U.S. administration is actively preventing many children from exercising this right. These children are especially vulnerable to human trafficking, exploitation, and abuse because of their age.
I found myself thinking about their parents, who are likely wondering: Who is tucking in my child at night? Who is holding their hand? Who is feeding them?
Unaccompanied children are among the most vulnerable refugees, and I worry their plight is becoming normalized and even demonized, as though they are the cause of this crisis and not its victims. Where do you put your tears when this happens on your watch? But most of all, when does it end?
It hurts seeing so many people living in limbo. It hurts that most can’t return to their home countries, like I do every year, because of violence and political fear. It hurts because these children can’t move forward.
I am reminded of Psalm 82:3, which says: “Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.” Fighting back against injustice and oppression isn’t easy, but I am honored to be part of an organization that is doing it every day.
Bethany actively works to keep unaccompanied children safe in temporary foster homes providing access to education, medical care, and more. You can help these children.