I just watched the movie Icebox about a child from Honduras that came to the United States after being forced to join a gang at gunpoint and then was persecuted and branded by the gang because he wanted to get away and go to school. He came to the United States where the Asylum system failed him and in order to stay alive he had to disappear and go work at the age of 12. He left his family, his friends, his country and his childhood behind. The movie struck a chord with me because over my years as an immigration attorney, I have heard similar stories from clients, and now I am watching as the changes to asylum are threatening these children’s lives.
In the last two years our asylum laws have changed drastically offering little to no protection to those who are fleeing to the United States because they are being persecuted by gangs that their countries government cannot control. The sad reality is that these laws were changed by Jeff Sessions as he took cases and decided them himself in order to change “Case Law” and to lessen protections. This happened at the same time that a mass exodus of children fleeing forced gang recruitment, rape, and murder were coming to the United States for protection. Coming to “the land of the free” just to find out that the freedom was not being made available to them. Instead, they were put in cages, placed in freezing cells, treated like animals and then forced to represent themselves in courtrooms as their own attorneys. Children as young as 5 or 6 are expected to do my job which took more years of education then some of these kids have alive.
Unfortunately, we are losing a generation of children. They are being denied freedom and told to go back to certain death, children who our government is kidnapping from their parents at the border and given to American families, who are being sent the message that America and its promise of freedom is closed to them. We have a generation of Latino men and women who will have never known a childhood, who will have grown up in cages and in fields, and who will not know the warmth of being with their family. Is this America?
By Abraham Cepeda