International Institute Helps Child Separated from Family at the Border

June 26, 2018 10:23 PM

At least one child who was separated from her parent at the U.S.- Mexico border is in Minnesota, staying with other family members. She's an 8-year-old girl from Guatemala.

"We do have one child in our program currently who was separated from a parent when she entered the United States," said Micaela Schuneman, the Director of Refugee Services at the International Institute of Minnesota. "She came with a parent and then was taken from her parent by the U.S. government, so she was reunited with another family member when she came to Minnesota."

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That's all she can say to protect the child's privacy. Safety is their number one goal.

The International Institute of Minnesota offers an array of programs to help refugees, new Americans, and unaccompanied minors, to name a few.

"Most of the children we work with are coming to the United States because they're fleeing gang violence in Central America or other violent circumstances in other countries," Schuneman said of her experience helping unaccompanied minors.

Social workers visit family members who have been located in Minnesota through the Chicago-based Heartland Alliance to make sure resources are in place for the child that will provide as smooth a transition as possible.

The 8-year-old girl is the first child separated from her parent at the border that the Institute has helped in Minnesota.

In addition to getting her set up at school, they've connected her with an attorney to help navigate her through the immigration process.

"We don't support family separation. We actually provide services to reunite families. That's a goal that we have," Schuneman said.

Minnesota is now one of 17 states suing to force the Trump administration to reunite immigrant families.

President Trump signed an executive order last week aimed at keeping families together but lawmakers are still working on a permanent legislative fix.

"Our government, because of a court ruling or a law, should not be forced to choose between keeping families together and securing the border and enforcing our laws. We should be able to do all of those and that is the legislation that we're supporting and proposing," House Speaker Paul Ryan said on Tuesday, ahead of Wednesday's vote on the immigration bill.

RELATED: Ryan Sets House Vote on GOP Immigration Bill for Wednesday

Schuneman said those at the International Institute are ready for any more cases that could still come.

"It's definitely possible just based on the scale of what's been happening so we think it's a possibility that we'll see other children here," she said.

The U.S. House will vote on Wednesday on the compromise immigration bill to address the separation of migrant children from their parents at the border.

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Katherine Johnson

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