Presentation Title

La Bestia: Unaccompanied Migrant Children and the Train of Death

Location

Atrium

Session Format

Poster Presentation

Research Area Topic:

Humanities & Social Sciences - Cultural, Ethic, & Gender Studies

Co-Presenters, Co- Authors, Co-Researchers, Mentors, or Faculty Advisors

Dr. Leticia McGrath

Bailey Kirk

Marina Michaud

Abstract

Our poster presentation focuses on the global issue of unaccompanied migrant children, which was inspired by our research in our Honors Global Citizens class with Dr. Leticia McGrath. Our course, titled The Global Lens, allowed us the opportunity to view documentaries from around the world to gain insight on ways we can become better global citizens. Dr. McGrath’s personal connection with a fellow Spanish professor, Dr. Stephany Slaughter, one of the field producers of the award winning documentary Which Way Home, will allow us to follow up on our research by asking her questions regarding her experience working on the film and the progress that has been made in the goal to help the thousands of children who migrate from Central America through Mexico since the film premiered in 2009. The heart wrenching documentary, Which Way Home, explores the harsh reality of many Central American children who travel alone in order to pursue their dreams in the United States by riding on top of a train (nicknamed “La Bestia,” “The Beast”) that crosses from the Guatemalan border through Mexico, nearly 1,500 miles. The migrants jeopardize their lives while on the train with possibilities of having falling accidents, being coerced or attacked by gangs along the way, or even being burned by heated metal of the trains. Some of these children are hoping to reach their parents in the United States while others want to work in America in order to send money back to their poverty stricken families. And yet others are deceived by smugglers called “coyotes,” who often abandon them long before they reach the border, forcing the children to finish their journey alone. Many children die, disappear, or are injured so severely that they lose limbs or the ability to gain employment.

This horrific tragedy plays out on a daily basis and is mostly overlooked by the Mexican government; children are taught from an early age to mistrust the police force due to a high level of corruption, which further isolates them when they are most at need for adult guidance and supervision. There are, however, few organizations in Mexico that strive to help the child migrants like the Beta Group (Grupos Beta), which offers assistance like medical help, information, and supplies. While these groups do make a significant positive impact, we contend that if more people were made aware of this situation, more would be done to help from our side of the border. Even though immigration is a widely known and highly debatable topic in the United States today, the reality of children migrating alone without their parents in such a treacherous manner, is not common knowledge. None of us were aware of this global issue before we viewed this documentary, and it is our hope to educate our audience on this global issue as a call to action.

Keywords

Immigration, Children, Mexico, Documentary, Global citizen

Presentation Type and Release Option

Presentation (Open Access)

Start Date

4-24-2015 10:45 AM

End Date

4-24-2015 12:00 PM

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Apr 24th, 10:45 AM Apr 24th, 12:00 PM

La Bestia: Unaccompanied Migrant Children and the Train of Death

Atrium

Our poster presentation focuses on the global issue of unaccompanied migrant children, which was inspired by our research in our Honors Global Citizens class with Dr. Leticia McGrath. Our course, titled The Global Lens, allowed us the opportunity to view documentaries from around the world to gain insight on ways we can become better global citizens. Dr. McGrath’s personal connection with a fellow Spanish professor, Dr. Stephany Slaughter, one of the field producers of the award winning documentary Which Way Home, will allow us to follow up on our research by asking her questions regarding her experience working on the film and the progress that has been made in the goal to help the thousands of children who migrate from Central America through Mexico since the film premiered in 2009. The heart wrenching documentary, Which Way Home, explores the harsh reality of many Central American children who travel alone in order to pursue their dreams in the United States by riding on top of a train (nicknamed “La Bestia,” “The Beast”) that crosses from the Guatemalan border through Mexico, nearly 1,500 miles. The migrants jeopardize their lives while on the train with possibilities of having falling accidents, being coerced or attacked by gangs along the way, or even being burned by heated metal of the trains. Some of these children are hoping to reach their parents in the United States while others want to work in America in order to send money back to their poverty stricken families. And yet others are deceived by smugglers called “coyotes,” who often abandon them long before they reach the border, forcing the children to finish their journey alone. Many children die, disappear, or are injured so severely that they lose limbs or the ability to gain employment.

This horrific tragedy plays out on a daily basis and is mostly overlooked by the Mexican government; children are taught from an early age to mistrust the police force due to a high level of corruption, which further isolates them when they are most at need for adult guidance and supervision. There are, however, few organizations in Mexico that strive to help the child migrants like the Beta Group (Grupos Beta), which offers assistance like medical help, information, and supplies. While these groups do make a significant positive impact, we contend that if more people were made aware of this situation, more would be done to help from our side of the border. Even though immigration is a widely known and highly debatable topic in the United States today, the reality of children migrating alone without their parents in such a treacherous manner, is not common knowledge. None of us were aware of this global issue before we viewed this documentary, and it is our hope to educate our audience on this global issue as a call to action.