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America’s “Missing” Children

Updated: Feb 26, 2021

By Kaitlyn Levine

MCALLEN, TX - JUNE 12: A two-year-old Honduran asylum seeker cries as her mother is searched and detained near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12, 2018 in McAllen, Texas. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

With close to 1,500 missing immigrant children, an immediate review of America’s immigration system is needed. Kids have been detached, relocated, and mistreated under the guise of ‘ICE Security.’ However, this pales in comparison to the history of America in regards to children— specifically children of color. The U.S. government has a history of ‘losing’ children, yet they are seldom held accountable. In a country built on the genocide of indigenous peoples, and exploitation of people of color, the repercussions of this lack of accountability can be seen today. Immigrant children are being taken away from their parents, sexually abused, and have died in the custody of our government. A tragedy, yet it sounds vaguely familiar and represents the ideals of America’s founding.

Native American boarding schools were established in the 1870’s to assimilate Natives into American Culture. By 1926, 83% of school-age Native American children would attend these boarding schools. Under these government funded schools, physical, mental, and sexual abuse occurred. It is impossible to count how many children went missing while attending these boarding schools, as they were loosely counted. However, survivors of these schools recount their traumatic memories, and those who never returned home and were never seen again. “It’s really hard to give an estimate to anything related to boarding schools — because the government doesn’t even know how many children went through them,” (McBride, 2018). This is strikingly similar to the current state of immigrant children in ICE Custody. Stories of mental trauma, sexual abuse, and missing children have been brought to light. Just under 1,500 immigrant children have been ‘lost,’ meaning the government has no knowledge of their current condition. When children immigrate unaccompanied by an adult, they are placed with adult sponsors that reside in the United States. Of the 7,635 children placed with sponsors, 1,475 were unaccounted for. This is alarming for numerous reasons, given that there was an incident in which US officials put immigrant children in the hands of sex traffickers. This is a matter of humanity and morality, with heeds to their state of immigration or ethnicity. The U.S. government has historically traumatized every group of color, Native Americans being the blueprint.

The effect of a disregard for the lives of people of color can be seen today. Native American women disappear daily, with little to no media coverage. It is a known fact that immigrant children have gone missing at the hands of our government, yet the acknowledgement has fallen on the deaf ears of America. The fact that children of color go missing at higher rates than white children is a clear indicator of the value of their lives in the hands of the US government. If it is to our knowledge of these double-standards, why does it continue to happen? The perpetuation of worth being stored in one’s ethnicity creates a falsehood that defines America today. Native American women go missing at higher rates than their white counterparts, but have to create their own websites and do field research as the government fails to acknowledge them. By the indifference shown to missing children of color as compared to their white counterparts, the cycle of discrimination continues.

America has been plagued by a disease of hatred since its founding: racism. People of color experience prejudice that is rooted in the ideals of this nation, and have since received the short end of the stick on every matter—especially disappearances. The lack of awareness and media coverage of disappearances pertaining to people of color inherently defines the value of their life. When will missing people of color achieve their justice?

Written by writer Kaitlyn Levine

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