Abel Núñez spoke softly into the microphone, but his words delivered a very firm message.
The cause of child migration is an escalation of violence, and it is up to the United States to solve the problem, Núñez said.
“The violence that is happening now … has shifted over the last five years [to] one that targets children,” Núñez said. “And the reason they target children is that it is the most vulnerable population.”
Núñez is the executive director of the Latino Resource and Justice Center in Washington, D.C. and was one of five panelists who spoke at the Symposium on the Child Migrant Crisis Thursday.
The event took place in the Special Events Room on the sixth floor of the McKeldin Library, and attracted close to 40 people.
Ana Patricia Rodríguez, a professor in the School of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures which moderated the event, explained how students at the university can help combat the issue.
“We can develop student programs and different action plans, and we can contribute to the efforts that these fine folks are already so much engaged in,” Rodríguez said.
Child migration has long been an issue in the United States, but the particular reasons for the exodus have changed, Kathryn M. Doan Esq. said. Migrants are no longer seeking economic opportunity; instead, they are running away from dangerous situations.
“If you are a young person in El Salvador, Guatemala or Honduras today, you have one of three choices,” Doan said. “You can join a gang, you can get killed because you don’t want to join a gang, or you can flee to the United States.”
Doan, the executive director of the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition, has served the immigrant community for more than 20 years. She explained that the United States is at fault for some of the problems in these countries.
Victoria Hinson, a junior Spanish culture and government major, said she was enlightened by the panel discussion.
“Everything that the state is trying to do to help the children that are integrated into the system is new information to me,” Hinson said.
Erica Fuentes, a sophomore government major, said she had similar revelations about El Salvador’s government.
“I was surprised by the … discrepancies between what the government of El Salvador is trying to do and what the actual discourse in the U.S. is,” Fuentes said.
The panelists agreed that once children manage to escape these nations, it is up to the U.S. government to assist them.
“We have an obligation as a civilized society to make sure no child is appearing in immigration court without an attorney and that they are given the process they are due under the laws of the United States,” Doan said.
Charlie Wright is a sophomore journalism major and can be reached at email@example.com.
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