Letter from the President: October 30, 2015

There is an old Spanish refrán that has crept into my mind a great deal lately: ojos que no ven, corazón que no siente. The equivalent of the adage in English would be, “out of sight, out of mind.” In either language, the point is largely the same, when we don’t see something regularly, we tend to forget about it, or worse, lose our emotional connection to it.

Unfortunately, this is precisely what has happened in the last few months with the unaccompanied minor crisis in the United States. Last year, at the height of the crisis, social media, newspapers and television news programs were filled with debate about the fate of the thousands of Latin American children who arrived at the U.S. border with Mexico in search of safety and security. Many groups, including Hispanic Federation, understood the need for a robust response to this humanitarian crisis. Predictably, some in Congress and other opponents of immigration reform, used the crisis to call for even greater enforcement at the border and for deportations.

In the intervening months, however, something equally terrible has happened. We have forgotten about the children; the ones who arrive at the border without their parents and often after enduring unimaginable abuses. The news cameras and pundits have turned their attention to other matters and Congress, which already has a less than stellar record on immigration issues, has gone from railing against them to ignoring them.

While the media attention has waned, the children are still here, thousands of them, and they need our help. At Hispanic Federation we are still committed to ensuring they have access to the resources they need.

While many of our member agencies have been integral in providing health and educational services, we want to take an additional step to ensure that these children feel embraced by and comfortable in their new home. In order to do this we recently co-hosted a special event for unaccompanied children between the ages of 13 and 17 with the legendary New York Cosmos soccer club. Many of our unaccompanied minors live in the Long Island area and joined us at the Cosmos’ practice field at the Mitchel Athletic Complex. Cosmos stars Andrés Flores, Samuel Cáceres, and Gastón Cellerino discussed their own experiences of immigration to the United States, and from there the coaches ran a clinic with the teens that included scrimmage matches and an opportunity to talk informally with the players. This is the first in a series of “socials” that Hispanic Federation will be hosting for these children in the New York area. These events are an opportunity for young people who have been through many hardships at a young age to be kids again, and to do so with others that have had similar experiences to them.

Of course, the socials alone aren’t enough to help kids who lack the needed adult guidance and support that can make a real difference in kids’ lives. There is a need for legal assistance, mental health services and housing for these children. I’m proud that Hispanic Federation member agencies have been providing a helping hand to these children. We’ll continue to work with them to raise awareness about this continuing crisis, even when the cameras have turned off. In the meantime, nuestros corazones si sienten.