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Serving Refugee Children

Listening to Stories of Detention in the USA

Edited By Montse Feu and Amanda Venta

Serving Refugee Children shows the struggles and traumatic experiences that unaccompanied and undocumented children undergo they seek safety in the United States and instead find imprisonment, separation from their families, and immigration enforcement raids. Current legislation and bureaucracy limit publication of first-person narratives from unaccompanied and undocumented children, but service providers and grassroots activists authoring the pieces in this collection bear witness to the children’s brave human spirits in their search for safety in the United States. Through the power of storytelling, Serving Refugee Children exposes the many hardships unaccompanied and undocumented children endure, including current detention center conditions. No child should have to live the persecution suffered by children featured in these stories, nor should they have to embark upon perilous journeys across Latin America or be subjected to the difficult immigration court process unaided. Researchers and readers who believe that the emotional bonding of storytelling can humanize discussions and lead to immigration policies that foster a culture of engagement and interconnectedness will be interested in this volume.

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Chapter 1. Seth Michelson

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For the past few years Michelson has had the honor of working with and for undocumented, unaccompanied youth (13 to 17 years of age) in one of the two maximum-security detention centers in the East Coast. More specifically, in that detention center, Michelson has led weekly poetry workshops with the children, and from that collaboration he has edited and translated their writing to create the anthology Dreaming America: Voices of Undocumented Youth in Maximum-Security Detention. Seth Michelson particularly remembers the harrowing story of Luz, an undocumented, unaccompanied minor he recently met during a poetry workshop. Her story of migration from El Salvador to incarceration in the United States shows her courage, determination, hope, and indomitable spirit.

That morning at the poetry workshop Luz told me that she could hardly believe her good luck: Abuela had given her ten dollars to buy chicken, saying she could buy herself lipstick with any change. And change there would be. In her bubbly excitement that summer morning, Luz rushed out of their one-bedroom apartment in Soyapango, San Salvador, already knowing exactly ←35 | 36→what color lipstick she wanted. It was a shade of red, carmine red, deep and lustrous as a sun-kissed jocote, the same color that Susana, the most popular girl in school, had debuted just last week, making it all the rage among the girls in their ninth-grade class at Escuela Panamericana.

“Hurry back, Luz,” Abuela had told her, ushering the teen out the door with a loving...

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