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The immigrant children of Central America

Central American child
Central American child
Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

Since October 2013 more than 57,000 children from the “Northern Triangle” region of Central America have survived an arduous and risky trek to the United States. The countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras make up the northern triangle. The estimated 1000 mile journey exposes these children to oppressive heat, extremely poor traveling accommodations and the risk of being criminally victimized including sexual assault.

How we treat these children and their families when they arrive in the United States is a direct reflection of how our society values children. If laws need to be changed so be it. If an executive order is needed so be it. This is a humanitarian crisis calling for expedited legislation. Welcoming, taking care of and educating the children making this incredible journey will benefit the United States many times over. They will respond to our nation’s acts of love and their responses will most likely be positive in many different ways. Their responses will make our nation stronger.

In contrast, the children of Gaza who are experiencing the horrors of armed conflict are at risk for becoming emotionally hardened and as they age many will most likely seek revenge on their perceived enemies. Revenge, and all that comes with it such as bitterness and hate, will be directed at those they perceive as the cause of their horrible wartime experiences. Vengeful, hateful responses foster weakness for those nations and trouble for many years to come.

Maryland is one of the states leading the way when it comes to showing love of children and family through its efforts to provide foster care for unaccompanied minors. As of July 28, more than 2200 children have found homes in Maryland, many with relatives. The fact that Maryland is doing the work needed to connect these children with relatives or placing them in foster care is exemplary and reflects our values. As many as 2000 more children are expected to be served by our state in the near future.

Our governor and his administration are leading the way identifying people and organizations willing to assist immigrant children arriving in our state. Such assistance includes finding attorneys willing to work pro bono with children and their families regarding immigration proceedings. Whether the legal status of these children is immigrant or refugee they need to be treated as valuable human beings in need of the love a nation such as ours is capable of showing.