Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Savage Inequalities (Guatemala Edition)

So one of our most difficult, damaged students was just released today. This was a young man from Guatemala, here illegally. He'd apparently jumped trains from Guatemala. He's told staff here of being on his own since about the age of five and of having been prostituted. As with a lot of our kids, the irony is that here behind barbed wire is probably the safest, healthiest environment he's ever been in, and now he's presumably being deported. Maybe that's the right decision; after all, plenty of American kids need more support than they receive. But I fear for this kid like I've feared for few others who have been released from the Detention Home and frankly, I fear for some who may cross his path. He assultled another of my students one morning, kicking him repeatly out of the blue, and bit a staff member after an apparent escape attempt. He was on Suicide Watch for his final couple of weeks here, but apparently did achieve enough progress under those circumstances that he was allowed his journal from my class, which he constantly wanted to have with him. He was always eager to show me new English sentences he could write, and I'm told he did well in other classes to. What amazes me is this capacity, despite all of this kid's struggles. What angers me is the loss of human potential he might represent.

Some staff here, myself among them, believe this kid to be diagnosable with PTSD or even multiple personalities. What will he go back to? There are civil society and government organizations throughout South America, and even UNICEF, which work to support kids who struggle with prostitution, abuse, gang violence and addiction. Will he find one of them? If so, will they have the capacity to help him, to whatever extent possible? One of the most unsettling dynamics of this place is that there is really no way of knowing.

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