A group of Central American migrant children who made the perilous journey through Mexico into the U.S. are staying now in the New Haven area. They're among the estimated 50,000 unaccompanied youngsters who have inundated the U.S. border since last October.
These kids were released from detention, and are being allowed to reunite with family in Connecticut until their cases are evaluated by an immigration judge.
I spoke to several teenagers on Thursday night at a rally on the steps of the Federal Courthouse in New Haven. Carlos Ventura Escalante, 17, said he left Guatemala because he was afraid of violence at home, and street gangs who forced him to sell drugs. "Ellos me dijeron que tenia que hacerlo porque si no, me iban a asasinar or iban a golpear a mi familia," he said. Gangs told him to pay them drug money, or they would kill him, or injure his family.
Escalante described a harrowing journey across the border, and said his brother still owes money he borrowed to pay the coyote -- another name for smuggler. He has been in New Haven for five months now, and is studying English.
Hazel Menecos Jimenez, 13, also from Guatemala, arrived one month ago. She's been reunited with her mother, who has lived here for eight years. "Ellos no entienden que venimos a este pais a luchar por nuestros suenos," She said, "Some people don't understand that we come to this country to fight for our dreams."
Shouting, "Not one more deportation!" about 75 immigrant advocates at the rally called on President Obama to shift immigration enforcement efforts away from the detention and deportation of children and youth.
The president has proposed giving the Department of Homeland Security additional authority to process the return and removal of unaccompanied children from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.
The unparalleled flood of young migrants across the border has led the Obama administration to raise its estimates for the number of apprehensions it anticipates this year. Predictions now are that as many as 90,000 unaccompanied minors could be stopped at the border before the end of September a more than 3-fold increase over 2013.