At 15, he made the long, frightening trek across Central America and the U.S.-Mexico border with a smuggler. Then he continued on an even longer journey, in search of his father in Colorado.
But what sent William into despair, and depression that pushed him to cut himself, happened in a U.S. holding center for migrant children: a long detention, a bout with tuberculosis, and the fear of never seeing his family again.
Every year hundreds of children are arriving in Colorado schools with uniquely challenging stories after crossing the border into the U.S. without their parents.
William — who asked that we withhold his real name, out of fear of jeopardizing his quest for citizenship — was one of the earlier unaccompanied minors arriving in the United States after fleeing life-threatening conditions at home.
School districts don’t keep track of whether their students are unaccompanied minors, and teachers say they would only learn about such a background if a student chooses to share it.
Chalkbeat took a look at the numbers of unaccompanied children who are resettling in Colorado and who these children are, as part of a Migrahack event organized by the Colorado Media Project and the University of Denver. Migrahack brings together journalists, community partners, web developers, and designers to use data to tell a fuller story about immigration in our community.
In the past year, the number of children getting released to a parent, relative, or other sponsor here in Colorado has more than doubled, with the majority being released to homes in Arapahoe County. According to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services data, 182 children were released to homes in Arapahoe County from October 2018 to September 2019.