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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 4. Melissa Briones, Alfonso Mercado, Abigail Nunez-Saenz, Paola Quijano, and Andy Torres


The story of Salvadorian Toñito depicts the love between a migrant son and his young mother as a symbol for the love and solidarity among migrants in respite centers. The power of a smile is the narrative thread of this story, a healing human connection that often writers experience at the humanitarian center. Although the time they spent with migrants it is only a step of their journeys, the stories they share leave a lasting footprint on the hearts of this Texas community, its volunteers, student research assistants, and Dr. Mercado.

Toñito looks out the bus window and sees a girl holding her parents’ hands. He can imagine the sound of her laughter as she throws her head back. Her parents smile affectionately down at her. His mother hasn’t smiled at him since they met Mr. Jacinto in Mexico. The man they call “El Coyote.” The migra agent calls out in choppy Spanish that this is where we’re getting off. He tells Toñito’s mom that the bus station is across the street. They are to get on buses and await their immigration court date. His mom holds a packet of papers with her. Toñito tried peaking at them; one of them has a weird title, “Removal Proceedings.” He looks up at his mom and smiles. Ella no sonríe.←89 | 90→

He takes his first free steps on United States ground—where he will finally walk around without having every move watched....

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