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Miguel Ramirez


English 1T

14 March 2018

Refugee or Immigrant

From her book, Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in 40 Questions, Valeria Luiselli

introduces the stories of unaccompanied minors migrating and explains why they come

to the U.S. Luiselli is an interpreter, asking the children 40 specific questions and

recording their responses to see if she can help grant them some form of legal

sanctuary. Luiselli mostly worked with children that were from the Northern Triangle

(Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras). These children suffer through a lot when coming

to this country, they go through violence, inhumane treatment, and end up with trauma.

Luiselli being an immigrant herself, connects and compares her story to theirs, leading

to her argument that these children should be considered refugees instead of

immigrants. People believe that these children are migrating to this country because of

the American Dream, for opportunity, when the reality is that these kids are running

away from their countries because they don’t feel safe. There is gang violence

surrounding them and a lack of government protection. Unaccompanied minors

migrating away from their country should be granted asylum or other forms of protection

because of the dangers that they are trying to get away from.

The MS-13 is a gang that terrorizes and recruits children, pressuring them to

leave their homeland in search of safety. The MS-13 originated in L.A., consisting of

people from the Northern Triangle, but mostly refugees from El Salvador. The MS-13 is
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more of a family gang rather than a business one, meaning that children will join in

order to gain protection. Joining the gang or having any relationship with it will lead to

other gangs targeting you as an enemy. If the gang approaches someone to join and

they decline, then they will be harassed until they accept or be killed for resisting for too

long. From the New Yorker, “The Teens Trapped Between a Gang and The Law”,

writer Jonathan Blitzer describes the negative relation that children have with gangs.

Blitzer states, “in September, 2016, Nisa Mickens and Kayla Cuevas, aged fifteen and

sixteen, were found dead in Brentwood… charged in their deaths”(Blitzer 4). The MS-13

being the cause of these two deaths, thirteen members of the gang were charged for

killing the two girls. Blitzer describes that the girls were killed with baseball bats and

machetes, “mutilated beyond recognition”. From “Tell Me How It Ends”, author Luiselli

explains that, “Children from the Northern Triangle consistently cite gang or cartel

violence as a primary motivation for fleeing… El salvador on child migrants who were

returned from Mexico found that 60 percent listed crime, gang threats, and insecurity as

for leaving”(Luiselli 2). The quote provides reasons for why America should grant

asylum to these children that are fleeing from their country. They aren’t coming to this

country because of the American Dream, their fleeing because they are in danger. This

states a statistical fact that vouches for why children are fleeing their country. Stating

that 60% of children list violence as a reason for coming into this country.The amount of

violence that the MS-13 is capable of is terrifying, even when consisting of children and

teenagers as members. They are a dangerous group, willing to take lives. The MS-13

comes from violence, creating more of it, being one of the reasons why so many

unaccompanied minors are migrating over to this country. These children seek safety,
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such as a refugee, they don’t come for the opportunities or because they want to. These

children flee their homelands because they have no other choice.

The lack of government protection and aid to help its people forces those in

danger to seek safety in other places. Even throughout an immigrant's journey

government officials are abusive. When they live in their home country people are

ignored by their police. When they are migrating they are abused by them, and if they

are lucky enough to make it into this country and gain a form of protection, the police

racially profile them. Luiselli goes deeper with this by introducing the first boy that she

ever interviewed. From author Valeria Luiselli, “Tell Me How It Ends”, she interviews a

boy named Manu who is coming from Honduras, explaining how he was asked to join a

gang and why he came to this country. Manu responds to one of the question saying,

“My government? Write this down in your notebook: they don’t do shit for anybody like

me… a copy of the police report be filed against the gang. He filed it months before his

best friend was killed, but the police never did a thing”(Luiselli 75). Manu and his best

friend tried to walk away from them, but they were followed and Manu’s friend was killed

because they had attempted to run away. Manu filed a police report against the gang

months before the incident had happened. He looked for help but none was given,

forcing him to leave Honduras. Once a child makes the decision or the decision is made

for them to leave, they must prepare. Luiselli describes the harsh preparation that a

child must go through when they migrate, especially the girls. She explains how girls

know that they will be raped and how all the kids know that there is a possibility of them

not surviving the journey, scaring their memories with dramatic moments. They have to
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be physically and mentally prepared. The kids know that the journey will be difficult and

that they will be abused, but still sacrifice everything in hope of safety.

Others will argue that allowing these children to enter and stay in this country

would be opening a door to all of the problems (specifically violence) that these children

are running from. Those that argue this believe that the children are going to be

followed by gang violence or that the children themselves will be gang members.

Parents fear that their children won’t be safe in a classroom because one of their

classmates could be a gang member. President Trump encouraging the fear of

immigrants by constantly referring them all as “criminals” and “animals”. From his

speech regarding the two teenage girls murdered by MS-13 members, President Trump

declares, "Many of these gang members took advantage of glaring loopholes in our

laws to enter the country as illegal, unaccompanied, alien minors and wound up in

Kayla and Nisa's high school". President Trump is supporting and helping implement

the idea that all immigrants are bad and bring violence and chaos into this country.

Instead of viewing the child as a child, they are viewed as gang members that are

bringing violence into the U.S.

Although there is a possibility that an unaccompanied minor could be a gang

member in disguise attempting to bring violence into the U.S., because of the unsafe

area that the unaccompanied minors come from and because CAFTA is a negative

factor pushing people out of their homeland. It is the United States obligation to provide

a form of protection for these children. CAFTA, the Central American Free Trade

Agreement, has negatively affected the agricultural income of Central American

countries. The Northern Triangle countries lost agricultural income because of the
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CAFTA. From the Oxford Academic, the “Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy

volume 32 issue 1” states, “rural poverty rates range from 62% in El Salvador to 86% in

Honduras. With the exception of Nicaragua, CAFTA is being implemented in a context

of generally deteriorating agricultural trade balances”. The U.S. sent their goods to sell

and it was in competition with the local grown goods. The U.S. has cheaper prices,

forcing farmers, growers, and their families to migrate. As a country, the United States

must acknowledge the dangerous journey that these children take in order to escape

the problems in their country. Forcing a child to go back to their homeland and problems

when they sacrificed everything to make it to this country is heartless. These children

were not given many choices. The U.S. as whole must realise that their only options

were to either join or get killed by a gang, or migrate and hope for safety. These children

are caught in between a rock and a hard place, their options are limited and the U.S.

must be one that they can rely on.

A possible resolution for the U.S. to both accept unaccompanied minors into the

state and not fear the dangers of violence being an issue, is by creating a check in

system. Children would still go through the forty question questionnaire that Luiselli

gives, but their answers reflect the amount of time that they are going to require check

ins. The minimum would be the first two years that the children are living there, with

check ins happening every three months. There would be officials that check in with the

children and the process would consist of checking for any criminal action, any form of

gang relation - meaning: tattoos, attire, relationship. The officials would also help if there

was any problem involving gang threats or any other issue. The process of the check

in’s would work like a parole. From the California Department of Corrections and
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Rehabilitation, it states that the conditions for an offender varies depending on what

conditions were “imposed upon release”. This is stating that depending on the crime

committed, the person is given certain conditions that they must follow. The same would

go for the process of the check in’s. Based off of the answers that are given, certain

requirements must be met.

unaccompanied minors migrating away from their country should be granted

asylum or another form of protection because of the dangers that they are trying to get

away from but, there should check-in’s with those unaccompanied minors that make

sure that they are following and meeting certain requirements. The importance of

accepting children that seek aid into this country is essential because the dangers that

they run from. The gang violence that surrounds them and the lack of protection brings

fear to these children's minds. The risk of walking outside of their home because they

might be killed is terrifying. The struggle that these children go through must not go

unnoticed, the journey that they take is one that many would not take. These

unaccompanied minors run from poverty and violence, to disregard them as immigrants

or gang members trying to achieve the “American Dream” or steal jobs is to be

unaware. Because these children risk everything in hope of safety.

Works Cited

Luiselli, Valeria, and Lizzie Davis. Tell Me How It Ends: an Essay in Forty

Questions. 4th Estate, 2017.

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California, State of. “Edmund G. Brown Jr.” Sentencing, Incarceration, & Parole,

Blitzer, Jonathan. “The Teens Trapped Between a Gang and the Law.” The New

Yorker, The New Yorker, 26 Dec. 2017,


Tatum, Sophie. “Trump Honors Parents of Teens Slain by MS-13 Gang.” CNN,

Cable News Network, 31 Jan. 2018,