Since the 2016 election, and long before then, the news spotlight has been swinging wildly from one issue to the next, capturing national – and even global – attention for a few weeks before the next devastating story steals center stage.
With the spotlight shining on the Kavanaugh hearings for the past few weeks, many other news stories have languished in the shadows. Of these many stories, one being reported by The New York Times is of particular interest. It describes the conditions of the more than 1,600 children being detained in a “tent city” in Texas.
These aren’t the same children from the detainment facilities the news covered earlier in the year. These children are coming mostly from Guatemala in an attempt to escape “poverty-stricken” towns throughout the country.
These “unaccompanied minors,” as the article names them, are children who are trying to receive asylum in the United States. Many of them ended up in the tent city because other detainment facilities reached peak capacity.
The New York Times reported that the average length of time migrant children are spending in custody has doubled over the last year – with most children spending nearly 60 days in the detainment facilities around the United States. Additionally, the number of migrant children detained in the U.S. has increased five-fold from last year – surpassing 13,000.
Many U.S. citizens are unaware of the appalling conditions migrant children are forced to live in, especially when relocated to “emergency shelters,” such as the “tent cities,” that are unregulated, not required to provide schooling, and offer little access to legal services.
Just because the story is no longer on the front page – and just because President Donald Trump gave an executive order to end family separation – doesn’t mean it’s over. It’s not so easy to tie up the loose ends when we’re talking human beings and a long bureaucratic process.
The spotlight may be on Kavanaugh right now, but these children are still being treated inhumanely. An event doesn’t stop just because another one has taken prominence. Issues don’t disappear once they are in the shadows, they just become harder to see.
We have to keep in mind that as the news cycles in and out. We must continue to check up on the stories that are no longer in the limelight.
Journalism functions as the fourth estate, but it can only achieve so much without the interest and support of news consumers – us.
And if you want to get even more involved, you can just look to the activists on our campus. Sociology professor Patricia Sánchez-Connally is leading the “Border Experience Trip” during spring break. Students will work in El Paso, Texas at a detainment facility with refugees and immigrants.
It is imperative that as citizens we take the time to enlighten ourselves and redirect the spotlight to the stories that have been lost in the shadows.