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What would you do with Honduran children?Tell North Platte what you think
 
Photo by Joe Chitwood
Rhonda Castillo
Photo by Joe Chitwood
Sally Mahoney
Photo by Joe Chitwood
Mark Russell
Photo by Joe Chitwood
Kami Snare
Photo by Joe Chitwood
Mike Vega
Photo by Joe Chitwood
Jacob Scott

Some 57,000 children, many unaccompanied by adults, have arrived at the border since October, seeking refugee status.

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Many are from war-torn Honduras, which has degenerated into lawlessness since 2010 as the government collapsed and powerful drug cartels battle each other.

The situation is similar in Guatemala and El Salvador.

According to a variety of news reports, the children are brought to the U.S. by paid transporters known as “coyotes" for around $5,000 per child.

Most children turn themselves in voluntarily to the Border Patrol. Some try to work their way north in the U.S. until they are apprehended.

A 2008 federal law requires unaccompanied children from Central America to be treated differently than Mexican children. Mexican children are repatriated (sent back to their native country) within a matter of days. But, unaccompanied children from Central America must be detained by Border Patrol, screened, and then transferred to the custody of U.S. Health and Human Services until they are placed with family members in the U.S., or in foster care, while their case then makes its way through the immigration court system (which can take two years.)

Before children are released to an approved sponsor, they receive vaccinations and medical screenings. The federal Office of Refugee Resettlement said it does not release any children who have a contagious condition.

Nationwide, 30,000 unaccompanied children were placed with sponsors from Jan. 1-July 7.

Most were placed with sponsors in California, New York, Florida, Texas, Virginia and Maryland, according to the resettlement office, which is a part of the federal HHS department.

Nearly 200 of the children have been placed in Nebraska.

What do you say?

With children from drug-war torn central Ameria arriving at the U.S. border, we asked some North Platte residents: "If you were in charge, how would you deal with the influx of children?"

Their responses:

Rhonda Castillo – use legal system
It is very unfortunate that people are suffering in those other countries and want to come here. However, I am not sure how I feel about them being here. We have a lot of children here that go hungry, without adding to them.
We should use the legal system. If it reveals that some of them have family members that are already here and willing to take them and provide for them, let's do that.
As a Hispanic person, I know my grandparents and great-grandparents had to do all the things to become citizens, so that is what I think I would make all of these children do.

Sally Mahoney -- only shelter youngest
I would send them all back, or to Hawaii and they can live with Obama when he goes there to retire.
The thing is, a lot of the kids are not helpless kids. Many are teenagers and I believe investigations have revealed many of them are gang members.
If they are over age 6, I would send them all back; those under 6 could be checked to see if they can be here and if so, go through the process to become citizens.

Mark Russell – hope & pray
You wonder what is right, but to begin with, we all came here from somewhere else, one way or another.
It is hard for me to turn down any child. That is why some have been brought to Nebraska. First they tried to send some to Louisiana but they fought them off and sent them away, then they moved them to El Paso and now here.
With the news of the M1 gangs in the countries they come from, I wonder how long it will be before some of them sneak in with other children.
The only solution is to take care of them -- and hope and pray for an answer.

Kami Snare – take care of our own
I'm sorry, but I don't think we can take care of our own people, so I don't think we need to be taking in other people.
I feel sorry for them and everything, but we are giving the countries where they come from enough help.
I think we should send them back. I love children and we need to treat them right while they are here, but get them sent back as soon as possible. Take care of our own.

Mike Vega – prove themselves
We can't pay for it. But, we can't treat them wrong while they are here.
I don't really think they should be allowed to stay. They need to work through the process and prove they have a reason to come here.
If they have been threatened by gangs, how can we be sure if they aren't already gang members?
We need to stop all this by checking them out. The good kids with good reasons will stay.
My dad came here from Mexico and he followed the rules and did the legal things to be here. They need to do the same.
And, make law changes to keep this from happening again.

Jacob Scott – quicker hearing
I didn't know about all these kids being here, but if I was in charge and heard it takes up to two years to get them to a trial or hearing, I would work to make it quicker -- like two months or less.
If we found out they could legally stay, I would try to get them into adoption or something so they could live better.

 

First published in the Bulletin's Aug. 8 print edition.


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The North Platte Bulletin - Published 8/25/2014
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