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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 12. Juan A. Ríos Vega


Ríos Vega reflects on his teaching journey teaching undocumented immigrant students, 16 to 18 years of age, in a middle and high school in the Southeast from 1999 to 2012. Student dialogue journals and Ríos Vega’s testimony are two forms of data collection in a qualitative study that claims his classroom was a healing place by the sharing their similar experiences of oppression and marginalization they suffered as newcomers.

I carry my students’ journals with me as personal treasures. Wherever I go, I try to share them with future student teachers so they can learn from my former English as a Second Language (ESL) students’ personal narratives. I promised myself to share my former students’ narratives with others. I always wanted more individuals to learn what it means to be a Latinx immigrant teenager in the United States. In this essay, I share the written narratives of three of my former ESL students, Sheila, William, and Carlos. Amazingly, what started as a classroom writing project over 10 years ago, where students were encouraged to write about their personal stories, turned into biographical artifacts in narrative research,1 to echo the personal experiences Latinx youth ←187 | 188→in education. These three narratives explore issues of immigration journeys, familia, discrimination, and racism. Unfortunately, two of the students in this paper, Sheila and William, passed away a couple of years ago.

Carlos’s narrative of gender discrimination and xenophobia allowed me to better understand the inner world of...

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