Macarena Vicente Morales, 18, with her U.S.-born son, Jacob, goes to high school in rural Delaware.
Nearly 70,000 unaccompanied children crossed the border last year fleeing poverty and violence in Central America, reports Al Jazeera America. Schools are struggling to educate immigrant children with “different levels of education and English skills, and in many cases, fragmented families, histories of trauma and very uncertain futures.”
Macarena Vicente Morales was 17 years old and nearly eight months pregnant when she swam across the Rio Grande last spring, marking the end of her childhood in Guatemala and the beginning of a new life in the United States.
But Morales said she wasn’t escaping violence; she came to provide a better life for her son. During her three-month stay at a Texas refugee shelter, Morales gave birth to Jacob. And in July, the new mother and baby moved in with Morales’ older sister in Georgetown, Delaware – home to one of the highest concentrations of Guatemalans in the United States.
Under federal law, unaccompanied minors from countries that don’t border the U.S. can stay while they await deportation proceedings.
Migrant workers have been coming to Sussex County, Delaware, since the early 1990s, seeking work in agriculture and poultry plants. Back then, just 2 percent of Georgetown’s population was Latin American. By 2013, that number had soared to 43 percent.
But few were prepared for this new wave of young migrants. Donald Hattier, who’s on the school board of the Indian River School District in Sussex County, said the arrival of nearly 70 migrant children in one school year blindsided his district.
The high school created a special program for the new students. “Reading and writing is definitely a struggle for them, because they don’t read and write in the first language,” teacher Lori Ott said. Some come from Indian communities and don’t speak Spanish or English.