Reverend speaks on unaccompanied minors illegally crossing U.S. border

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Speaker asks students to sympathize with dangers undocumented immigrants from Central America face.

Ansley Lewis

alewis87@student.alamo.edu

Crossing the border into the U.S. is not a happy ending for most u­ndocumented immigrants, the Rev. Javier Leyva said during the Hot Potato discussion “Unaccompanied Minors and the Crisis at the U.S. Border” Tuesday at the Methodist Student Center.

Leyva, director of United Methodist immigration ministries in South Texas, spoke to a group of 20 at the weekly Hot Potato lecture and lunch.

Leyva, who specializes in ministering to undocumented immigrants in Texas, spent time informing students about issues undocumented immigrants face once they reach the U.S., such as kidnapping and slavery.

To ease into his discussion, Leyva showed the audience a short YouTube video about the hardships most people living in Central American countries deal with on a daily basis.

The Rev. Javier Leyva, director of United Methodist Immigration Ministry of South Texas, shows where unaccompanied minors who fled their country are living in Texas. In the first Hot Potato lunch of the semester today in the Methodist Student Center Leyva said 29,890 unaccompanied minors lived in the US and 4,829 lived in Texas from Jan. 1 to July 31. Photo by Neven Jones

The Rev. Javier Leyva, director of United Methodist Immigration Ministry of South Texas, shows where unaccompanied minors who fled their country are living in Texas. In the first Hot Potato lunch of the semester today in the Methodist Student Center Leyva said 29,890 unaccompanied minors lived in the US and 4,829 lived in Texas from Jan. 1 to July 31. Photo by Neven Jones

Leyva said gang and cartel violence within these countries is why the number of immigrants along the southern U.S. border is steadily increasing.

He said it costs anywhere from $4,000 to $8,000 per person to come to the U.S. border from Central American countries.

Leyva said most of these immigrants turn to a cartel for transportation, but end up as slaves when they cannot afford to pay the full amount.

“Families in Honduras or Guatemala will sell all they have to get a family member to the border,” Leyva said. “Even then, there is still no guarantee they will make it to the border.”

Leyva said many of the children who arrive without parents often come with another family member, and usually become separated when they are caught by Border Patrol.

“They come with an older brother, uncle, grandpa or grandma, and when they catch them at the border, that is when they are separated. The children go one way. The adult goes the other,” Leyva said.

Leyva said McAllen has the last remaining holding center for unaccompanied minors in the U.S.

Once at the center, Leyva said children bathe, receive new clothes, food, medical exams and counseling.

After the minors are processed, which takes about 30 to 35 days, Levya said they are placed throughout the U.S. with sponsors, in foster homes or with family members who may already be in the country.

Political science Professor Asslan Khaligh asked Leyva if he believed these unaccompanied minors should remain in the country.

“What I believe is they are here. It’s not a political thing; they are here, and they are people — they are children. Like you saw in the film, we send help all over the world for kids, but we do not want to do it in the United States.

“They already have a family member here, and they are going to be reunited with their family. So yes, I believe they need to stay,” Leyva said.

Psychology sophomore Dana Schesventer asked if Americans were selfish when it came to the U.S. border versus helping others at home.

“We take a lot of things for granted,” Leyva said. “You push the light and light comes on. You go to the restroom and you flush. You open the water faucet and the water comes out.”

The next Hot Potato discussion “VIA Metropolitan Transit and the Future of Public Transportation” will be at 12:15 p.m. Sept. 16.

For more information, call the Methodist Student Center at 210-733-1441.

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