Our City Is Your City


July 11, 2014


As the number of unaccompanied minors—mostly coming from Central America—has substantially increased in the last three years, immigration has become a hot-button issue again in the United States. AQ's Kate Brick explores that while the federal government continues to delay on immigration reform, cities have taken the lead on providing support for immigrants.

Our City is Your City

By Kate Brick

At age 16, Edwin Ajche fled Guatemala in 2011 to join his older brother in the United States. Despite the risks that come with traveling north and crossing the border alone, his parents believed that their son would be safer in the U.S. than at home. But Edwin was detained at the border. After spending a month in prison-like conditions at a border holding facility, he was released to his brother in New York.

Two years later, he approached the Bay Parkway Community Job Center at the Worker’s Justice Project in Brooklyn looking for a job. He needed to pay back the $7,000 debt he owed the coyotes who guided his journey. Ligia Guallpa, the executive director at the organization, instead encouraged him to enroll in school, as he was too young to seek work. Like many of his friends from Central America, Edwin is now living in a state of limbo while his case makes its way through the immigration courts, a process that can take years.

The number of unaccompanied youth attempting to cross into the U.S. has tripled since 2011. More than 52,000 kids — the majority from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — have been detained at the U.S. border since October 2013. But while the country is captivated by the crisis at our southern border, less attention has been paid to the impact of this surge in towns and cities across the country. This is where many children like Edwin will find themselves awaiting immigration hearings, and where public officials and community groups will be responsible for integrating them into their local communities.


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