The heartbreaking reality of the children at the border is unfortunately nothing new however the reality of the situation is not truly known but now that’s changing. Attorney Warren Binford is the founder of Project Amplify, a national campaign that works to establish legal protections for children in government care. She’s an advocate and internationally recognized children’s rights scholar and in line with her mission and work, she released a picture book about the children at the border. Hear My Voice/Escucha Mi Voz: The Testimonies of Children Detained at the Southern Border of the United States, published in both English and Spanish and out this week, features excerpts of testimonies from children at the border along with art by award-winning Latinx illustrators.
“People were so depressed. They would call me and say, ‘I can’t do it. I bawl my eyes out. It’s too much.’ And so then it was like, ‘OK. How do we help people to access this knowledge that the children have given us in the children’s own words?’ ” Binford told NPR.
She shared with the outlet that in June 2019 she traveled to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility in Clint, Texas. It was during this routine visit to monitor the government’s compliance with the Flores Settlement Agreement that she interviewed dozens of children. They described the shocking details of their living conditions including sleeping on concrete floors with only Mylar blankets. She found that these harrowing stories, featured on the nonprofit’s website, were difficult for audiences to bear and decided a picture book would make it more “accessible”.
The book features 61 migrant children between the ages of 5 to 17 with their stories paired with 17 different Latinx illustrators including award-winning illustrators Yuyi Morales and Raὺl the Third. The stories they share discuss hunger, overcrowding, verbal abuse, and overall unsanitary conditions: “I have been here without bathing for twenty-one days,” a child said behind fencing. “I wish I could get clean.” In another illustration, the families in cages are depicted with the heads of birds sleeping on the floor with mats and Mylar blankets sharing where they’re from in LATAM (Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador etc).
The number of migrants at the border hit a 15-year high with nearly 19,000 children and teenagers traveling without a parent — double the levels from February and the most ever in a single month, NPR reported. The U.S. government was housing approximately 15,500 unaccompanied migrant minors on March 20, including 5,000 teenagers and children stranded in Border Patrol facilities that aren’t meant for long-term custody, according to government data reviewed by CBS News. Border Patrol has detained more than 11,000 unaccompanied migrant children between February 28 to March 20, according to government data reviewed by CNN. They’ve also apprehended more than 60,000 single adults and more than 32,000 families, according to the data CNN reviewed.
The proceeds from the book go toward Project Amplify and the book contains information, questions, and action points to provide readers with the tools needed to help make a change. Binford told NPR that she hopes that families “actually have enough energy at the end of reading the book that they’re like, ‘What can we do?’ And, you know, ‘We’ll write to political leaders, maybe volunteer to be a sponsor or maybe volunteer to be a foster family.’ “