Unaccompanied minors bring hope, past trauma to American schools

Unaccompanied minors bring hope, past trauma to American schools

Hechinger Report
By Lillian Mongeau

Bandon, 18 and a recent immigrant from Guatemala, jumped eagerly into a recent conversation exercise in his English language class. He was supposed to ask a classmate, “What color are your eyes?”

With liquid brown eyes of his own, and carefully cultivated biceps, the Oakland International High School student had no intention of wasting this question on any of his male classmates.

Instead, Brandon zeroed in on a girl from El Salvador, who didn’t seem at all upset by his choice. Leaning forward with mock earnestness, Brandon asked the assigned question in heavily accented English.

“My eyes are color brown,” the girl answered, grinning as Brandon widened his own eyes to stare right into hers in an it-would-be-awkward-but-we’re-teenagers kind of way. Much giggling ensued.

Brandon, who did not want to give his last name because of a pending deportation hearing, is one of 66,127 young people traveling alone who were caught on their way across the U.S.-Mexican border between Oct. 1, 2013 and Aug. 31, 2014.

In 2011, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol began to see a sharp rise in the number of unaccompanied children coming from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. So far in fiscal year 2014, the number of unaccompanied minors caught on the southern border is more than triple the number apprehended in 2010.