15 B.U. Pub. Int. L.J. 263 (2005-2006)
Our Responsibility to Unaccompanied and Separated Children in the United States: A Helping Hand

handle is hein.journals/bupi15 and id is 267 raw text is: OUR RESPONSIBILITY TO UNACCOMPANIED AND
SEPARATED CHILDREN IN THE UNITED STATES: A
HELPING HAND
LINDA A. PIWOWARCZYK*
I. INTRODUCTION
Children throughout the world are placed in harm's way through the circum-
stances of their lives, often far from the childhoods available for many in societies
that are politically stable and economically prosperous. Our own society is at a
crossroads. How do we want to treat the unaccompanied youth who come to our
borders - as the children they are, or as objects of interest to homeland security,
border patrols, and immigration discourse? Although one might easily respond,
that we should treat the youth as children first, our immigration policy continues to
objectify children as a group. Furthermore, our immigration policy does not take
into account the vulnerability of each individual child, their histories, potential vic-
timization and resultant distrust, their human rights and personal dignity, resil-
ience, cognitive development, or susceptibility to persuasion. There is very little
written about the mental health impact of immigration detention on children in the
United States. This paper will attempt to draw on what has been written about
both adults and children detained abroad to underscore the necessity of incorporat-
ing child development and mental health considerations into the immigration de-
bate. In addition, I will advocate against the use of immigration detention of chil-
dren in favor of foster care and group homes, as well as for the use of guardians ad
litem.
Here is story of a young man, now 25, from Guatemala who fled his country.
Had he been picked up by border control, he would have likely been deported.
His mother left him when he was five. He thinks it was because she was
pregnant with another child, and was very poor. Guatemalan soldiers threat-
ened his father as they wanted him to serve in the army. He then disappeared.
His uncle was brutally murdered and was drowned in front of him. His grand-
father was burned in his house alive. He was alone on his own at age ten...
at the whim of the adults he met along the way who sometimes fed him, and
often abused him. For so many years of his young life, he had to fend for him-
* M.D., M.P.H. Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Boston University School of
Medicine, Boston Center for Refugee Health and Human Rights at the Boston
Medical Center.

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