LOS ANGELES — Displaced children as young as 13 are leaving their homes in Central America in greater numbers than ever before due to violence from wars involving the cartels, gang initiations and or extortion. And for some it is the longing to be united with their parents that sets them on this journey. Nearly 21,000 from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras have travel to the US in 2013.
The great majority of these children travel unaccompanied by adults, they walk and jump on trains, some die in their attempt. They experience horrific situations such and theft, starvation, unsanitary conditions, physical and sexual abuse.
Over the course of two days, Estela Jimenez and Father Richard Estrada members of Angeles Sin Fronteras (Angels Without Borders), announce at a press conference in Los Angeles, that they will participate in “Caminata por los niños no acompañados” (Walk for the unaccompanied children”), in Mexico, by walking a portion of the route that many children take on their way to the U.S. They will stop in Tapachula, a town that borders Guatemala and Mexico, and visit with Pastor Ramon Verdugo who runs a shelter for migrant children, many times under threats by gangs and cartels.
“We are going as observers and we will return to inform you of some of the experiences that these children face and to let them know that we will take care of them when they reach Los Angeles,” commented Estela Jimenez.
Some of the supporters of this pilgrimage are members of Jovenes Inc. an organization in the Los Angeles area that help homeless youth, mostly migrant, that come into this country and have no one to look after them but who have come seeking a better life free from violence and poverty. “We support this action because we know first hand what these children have experienced” stated Andrea Marchetti, Executive Director of Jovenes Inc. “We are also asking for under garments for youth, which you can donate to Jovenes Inc. This may seem like an odd request but this is what most of these children are in need of.”
Gloria Saucedo of Hermandad Mexicana spoke to the press stating “We are worried about our youth who come escaping the poverty and violence in their home country and those that come to unite with their families. We need to protect them as they make their way in this long journey. “
The crisis these children are facing in their home country is a result if an economy of violence, wars, poverty extortion. Invasion by large corporations that are exploiting the towns and contaminating the water is another crisis they are facing. Townspeople are being displaced as the corporations move in to exploit the riches through mining. These corporations are treating our people as a disposable commodity.
“We are here to be the voice for these children. We will be taking this message to the children and to hear first hand what they experience and assure them that we will there to help them get the necessary assistance when they arrive,” stated Estela Jimenez.
Father Estrada of La Placita Catholic Church will be one of the three observers whowill be witnesses to this exodus of children. ” I will be joining Estela and take the voice of Los Angeles and assure them that we will be there to help them get the necessary assistance when they arrive. We want to hear their stories if the children from their own mouths not from the mainstream media.” Continued Father Estrada. “We want to ensure that the children have protection and a lawyer when they are arrested.”
As with all who appear in immigration court, the children are not provided with government-funded attorneys during their removal hearings. An immigration judge makes the final determination on whether the child will be deported or allowed to stay.
Photo: Father Estrada with Estella Jimenez speaking at the mic. Rossana Cambron/PW