I was informed last Friday that there were Unaccompanied Child Immigrants (UCI) at the Shenandoah Juvenile Detention Center in Verona. Like most others, I had read the newspapers and heard the news reports about these children, but now they were here in my district. I called the detention center and set up an appointment to meet some of these children.
I arrived at the Juvenile Detention Center Monday morning at 8 am. I had the opportunity to meet five illegal immigrant children, look into their welfare, and hear their stories. It was a heart-breaking experience.
One young man was 16 years old. His mother left him in the care of his grandmother when he was 9 and she came illegally to the United States. He hasn’t seen her since. Earlier this year this young man’s grandmother passed away leaving him no place to go, no family, no money. He decided to seek out his mother. All he knew was that she lived in Virginia or at least that is where she mailed the letter from two years ago. This young man was caught by the US Border patrol after crossing the Rio Grande river. He was brought to Virginia while awaiting his appointment with the immigration court. Currently, he has not heard from his mother and doesn’t even know if his mother is aware that he is here.
I also met with a 17-year-old girl who came across with her mother and two siblings. She hasn’t seen her mother, who is in Texas, in two years. She states that there was nothing for her in her native country and that her only hope of not living a life of poverty was to come to the United States. She was caught after crossing the border and has been in the federal detention system for two years.
I have heard from many over the last week about these children. Most have asked about their welfare, have they seen a doctor, are they well fed, are they being treated with care and respect. Others have asked how all of this is being paid for. These are all prudent questions. I can say without doubt that these children have seen a doctor, some for the first time in their lives. They have been screened, vaccinated, and treated for what ailments they may have. They are well fed and the staff appears to be treating them appropriately. The children I spoke with have stated that the staff is nice and respectful. They attend school 5 days a week and are allowed to play outside on the detention center grounds. The bill is completely paid by the federal government, and we also receive a fee for the use of our facility which offsets local debt on our detention center. So, while it is all taxpayer money, it doesn’t come out of our local tax coffer, rather it adds to our local coffer.
I understand the angst of those who are angry about this situation. We have a border problem that needs to be solved ASAP. We also have an immigration system that is horribly broken, so much so that those who are most desperate for hope will only realize that dream by breaking a law and coming to the United States illegally because, for them, no legal way practically exists. We have a problem with many illegal immigrants already in our country and we need to know who they are. We need leadership in Washington to solve this problem once and for all.
I also understand those who believe in the symbol of the Statue of Liberty. The bronze plaque at her feet reads, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
We are a nation of immigrants. My ancestors where poor Italian/Slavic who had little when they came to the United States. Today, due to their poverty and lack of education, they may not have met the standard that is currently set for admission into this country. I thank God they came when they did.
In closing, for now we need to remember who we are as Christians and as citizens of Augusta County. We are hospitable and caring. We will take care of these children and respect them as such, we will see to their needs, and we will obey the law.
If you have any further questions, as always, please feel free to contact me. Click Here
See Supervisor Karaffa’s biography on our Contributors Page.
– Political cartoon – Red vs Blu: Immigration by Kurt Michael
– Immigrant children issue comes to Augusta County by Lynn R. Mitchell
– Wednesday: Augusta supervisors will hear about issue of immigrant children by Lynn R. Mitchell
– Virginia Latino Advisory Group meets amid illegal crisis by Daniel Cortez
– Deborah’s family immigration story: little has changed by Deborah Bornstein Munoz
– The presentations of a county fair by Daniel Cortez
See interviews with David:
– Federal records show asylum requests on increase by Bob Stuart (News-Virginian)
– Augusta Tea Party to Out on Refugees at Detention Center by Sean Cudahy (NBC-29)