Throughout the year, Long Island Wins extensively covered many details about the newly arrived children from Central America. Recently, I took the opportunity to interview Sister Margaret Smyth from the North Folk Spanish Apostolate in Riverhead, for my Spanish radio series with CyTUnidos.
Sister Margaret has personally worked with over 100 newly arrived children since May. Having lived in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala she witnessed first-hand the many reasons these children were leaving their home countries. She recounted the violence and the fact that nearly every child has lost someone they know. She also talked about poverty, lack of resources and opportunities for education, and the heartache of living away from their parents for many years.
Sister Margaret explained to us, step by step, what happens to these children once they arrive to the U.S. They first receive a medical examination. Afterward, immigration starts looking for their family members. Only when their family members get fingerprinted and file legal information are they reunited with the children.
For the children who cannot be reunited with any family member two things can occur. They are either sent back to their country of origin, or if immigration does not know where that is, then these children are put in foster care and put up for adoption where they may never see any family member again. Sister Margaret recounted the story of a two-year-old boy she met who could not tell her from where he came or where he wanted to go.
The most touching part of the interview with Sister Margaret was when she shared two very personal stories of two young boys she met. One boy, 14 years old, shared the scariest moment during his journey. He said that while he was crossing El Rio Bravo, in a rubber blowup raft filled with 20 people, including babies, he feared that immigration would shoot the raft to stop them from crossing. Although he could swim, he feared that the babies on board would drown and die.
Another story she shared was about a young boy who was very thin when he arrived because he hadn’t eaten for 15 days while trying to cross the border. The coyote helping him cross would not give him any food.
Sister Margaret closed off our interview with very wise words. She asks us to realize that these are children we are talking about. Children aren’t going to destroy our community; instead they will grow and give back to our community. She reminds us that the majority of us are immigrants or children of immigrants and we should not forget where we came from. She asks that we open our hearts and “welcome the stranger.”
Click here for the full interview in Spanish.