The issue of immigration has always represented a contentious topic on the American sociopolitical and socioeconomic agenda. As the environment in Mexica and other Latin American countries with poor socioeconomic conditions aggravated, a rise in immigration rates has been observed in the U.S. (Bruzelius & Baum, 2019). Namely, the official statistical data states that immigrants constitute around 13.7% of the U.S. population (Budiman et al., 2020). However, while adults emigrating from Latin American countries to the U.S. has been observed for decades since the Mexican Revolution, which made the political and economic situation in the state unbearable, a surge in immigrant children is a comparatively recent phenomenon (Bruzelius & Baum, 2019). Although the problem of reuniting with lost family members remains one of the major factors in the rise in Hispanic immigrant children trend, other contributors such as the problem of poverty and the attempts of parents at entering the U.S. afterward should also be cited as some of the primary factors.
The problem of Latin American, primarily, Mexican, children crossing the U.S. border illegally has been observed recently, with strong indications of the specified phenomenon to become a serious sociocultural and sociopolitical concern. Although the instances of adolescents and teenagers from Latin America illegally immigrating to the U.S. had been observed before, it was not until recently that the issue reached an especially large and, therefore, alarming scale. According to Hesson and Rosenberg’s (2021) report, throughout 2014-2019, the U.S. services identified approximately 290,000 unaccompanied children that have illegally crossed the U.S. border. Due to the restrictions that the pandemic of COVID-19 has imposed on traveling, parents who have immigrated to the U.S. cannot return to their children, which causes the latter to seek the means of reaching their parents independently. The observed phenomenon implies tremendous threats to children crossing the border, including the threat of contracting COVID-19, being injured, or suffering another severe consequence that may cause fatal outcomes. Therefore, the problem needs to be resolved immediately.
Among the key factors that cause illegal immigration of Hispanic children to the U.S., one should mention several factors. The severed family ties and the need to reconnect with their parents is the primary reason for children to cross the U.S. border illegally (Osorio, 2018). Therefore, the disruption of family relationships and the anguish that children experience becomes the crucial driving force for them to seek their parents by immigrating to the U.S.
Additionally, the challenging environment of Mexico and the absence of vital resources that children have in their homeland in the absence of their parents force them to immigrate. Studies indicate that the economic situation has aggravated drastically in Mexico over the past couple of years, mostly due to the development of the pandemic and the resulting restrictions in trade relations with the U.S. (Larios-Gómez et al., 2021). Therefore, left without resources for sustaining their life, children seek the support of their parents, who immigrated to the U.S. in search of employment opportunities.
Finally, there has been a trend in Hispanic parents sending their parents to the U.S. deliberately so that they could join their children in the U.S. afterward. Although the specified scheme is fraught with an array of difficulties and threats, drastic economic conditions force Hispanic people to resort to the described measure (Wood, 2018). Therefore, a combination of socioeconomic, sociocultural, and sociopolitical factors defined the decision of Hispanic children to migrate to the U.S. illegally.
To address the problem described above, a closer focus on the needs of children of Hispanic immigrants, including those of emotional support and love from their parents and those of being provided with economic safety, must be developed. Namely, policies for assisting migrant workers from Mexico and other Latin countries, specifically, those aimed at providing child support, must be offered. For instance, financial benefits for Latin American migrant workers, as well as services such as daycare and education opportunities, should be offered to children of Hispanic immigrants. Furthermore, the process of immigrating should be simplified for migrant workers with children. Although the described policies are likely to require additional funding from the U.S. government, they will lead to a drop in the number of illegal child immigrants crossing the U.S. border. Moreover, policies geared toward minimizing and alleviating the punishment for illegal migration for Mexican and Latin American people, who have children, and who come from impoverished areas, must be provided. The specified step will help to control the levels of immigration and ensure that migrants seek the government’s support as opposed to hiding from officials.
Despite the fact that the urge to reconnect with relatives, mainly parents, who immigrated to the U.S. before, remains one of the main driving forces behind Hispanic children’s willingness to migrate to the U.S., other issues such as a scheme created by parents or the pressure of critical circumstances in the home country, should be mentioned as well. While every family represents a unique situation and a specific dilemma, the current trend in the rapid increase in Hispanic immigrant children can be explained by the trauma that separation from parents causes to children, as well as children’s willingness to reunite with their parents. The described trauma is also aggravated by the harsh economic conditions with which children have to cope in Mexico and other Latin American states while their parents work in the U.S. Therefore, to resolve the current problem of the increase in immigrant Hispanic and Latino children in the U.S., measures for supporting immigrant parents in their effort to communicate with their kids, as well as opportunities for families to reunite, must be incorporated into the current legislation.
Bruzelius, E., & Baum, A. (2019). The mental health of Hispanic/Latino Americans following national immigration policy changes: United States, 2014–2018. American Journal of Public Health, 109(12), 1786-1788. Web.
Budiman, C. T., Mora, L., & Noe-Bustamante, L. (2020). Facts on U.S. immigrants, 2018. Pewresearch. Web.
Hesson, T., & Rosenberg, M. (2021). Explainer: Why more migrant children are arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border. Reuters. Web.
Larios-Gómez, E., Fischer, L., Peñalosa, M., & Ortega-Vivanco, M. (2021). Purchase behavior in COVID-19: A cross study in Mexico, Colombia, and Ecuador. Heliyon, 7(3). Web.
Osorio, S. L. (2018). Border stories: Using critical race and Latino critical theories to understand the experiences of Latino/a children. Race Ethnicity and Education, 21(1), 92-104. Web.
Wood, L. C. (2018). Impact of punitive immigration policies, parent-child separation and child detention on the mental health and development of children. BMJ Paediatrics Open, 2(1). Web.