Imagine traveling thousands of miles to the U.S., only to be turned away and told that you're not wanted here. Now imagine if you were just a child. This is the reality faced by 8-year-old Alejandro, who was stopped by a Border Patrol agent at the Texas border after traveling from his home in Honduras to join his parents in the United States. In a split second, Alejandro's three-week journey to the U.S. came undone, as he now faced the possibility of detainment and deportation. 

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Though unaccompanied, Alejandro is far from alone. More than 52,000 unaccompanied minors from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras have been caught crossing the U.S.-Mexico border since October of last year, and thousands more have been apprehended with parents or adults. Unfortunately, the White House announced on Monday that most of these children and young adults do not qualify for asylum. As the law (and good ol' bureaucracy) stands, only children who have been victims of domestic abuse may qualify for asylum. Needless to say, proving such a thing is not only difficult, but it's time consuming and traumatic. And in the interest of patriotism and all that jazz, I'd even argue that this entire process is also incredibly expensive.

This morning, the White House asked Congress for a whopping $3.7 billion to essentially keep unaccompanied minors, like Alejandro, out of the U.S. If the budget is approved, the money will go towards heightened security measures at the U.S.-Mexico border, legal services for children in immigration proceedings, the hiring of immigration judges and care for unaccompanied children during their albeit brief stay in the country. An additional $300 million is expected to go towards efforts to "repatriate and reintegrate migrants to Central America" and address the underlying economic and security causes of the spike in child migrants. In other words: the Obama Administration wants to spend lots of dinero on catching, detaining, deporting and keeping children out of the U.S. 

It all seems so unfair and even cruel. Turning a child or young person away when they have nothing seems so very un-American. What ever happened to "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." Sure, the poem—"The New Colossus" by Portuguese Sephardic Jew Emma Lazarus—from which these words were quoted aren't part of the constitution, but they reflect many of the ideals on which this nation was built. Hell, they even reflect the fact that this nation was built on the backs of immigrants. And yet here we are, essentially telling these poor, tired and homeless children, "Sorry, we're at capacity. Come back when you can prove that you've been abused. Then we might be able to find some space for you."

I understand the financial strain migrants have on the U.S. economy, but I also understand that providing these children (and their parents) with a path to citizenship will help ensure that they're able to contribute to our economy. But if they must—absolutely must—send these children back "home," I'd like to see that $300 million earmarked for "repatriation" put to work. I'd like to see those children thrive in their readopted home. I'd like to know that their terrifying journey wasn't for nothing. Please don't let it have been for nothing.

Image via Getty

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About the author

Tanisha Love Ramirez is a freelance pop culture journalist and professional smart alek. She enjoys using breaking lifestyle and entertainment news to talk about gender, race, class, and fitness.

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