Would you ever imagine that a volleyball league would somehow be helping to put a roof over the heads of people affected by immigrant detention in Colorado? Yeah… neither did I! Until my dream became reality. But first let me back up. A few years ago I made my first journey to the Mexico/US border…
The Power of Relationships
E. just graduated from high school and finished his final semester with straight As. He speaks three languages fluently and is hoping to eventually attend college. I met E. when he arrived in an immigration detention center for unaccompanied minors in South Texas after he fled abuse by his father in his home country. When he arrived, E. had only completed sixth grade and did not know any English. The transition from abused child with little prospect of graduating high school to a straight A student who is deciding on which college to attend is not an easy one to make. Children are resilient, and the boys and girls like E. who traverse countries on their own and suffer all the trauma that comes with those crossings have an extra set of strength and resilience, but they still need someone to encourage them in order to achieve their dreams.
Immigrant children, children of immigrants, and persons in poverty too often describe the same groups of people. When unaccompanied minors like E. leave detention centers, their journey is far from over. In order to do well in the United States they need access to mentors, clinicians, supportive families, and teachers who take an interest in them. The system is not set up to provide immigrant children the resources they need, and there are even fewer resources for the children who have not completed their legal case or who end the court process with no legal status. The biggest lesson that I learned while working with the children who I met in immigration detention is the power of relationships and the profound impact that a caring and supportive adult can make in a child’s life, especially a child who is far from home and separated from his family. Even though taking the time to show a young person that you care and believe in his ability to achieve great things will not change the system, it can change the outcome in one child’s life.
— Laura Rheinheimer
about the author
Laura spent 4 of the past 6 years in southern Texas. Her primary task was offering legal help to detained unaccompanied immigrant children – to children seeking asylum.