Reporting on unaccompanied migrant minors

Messages written on the walls of a migrant shelter for girls: "I want to leave." & "If love was a drug, I would be addicted."

I spent the past week working with a photographer on a project about unaccompanied migrant minors on the Guatemala-Mexico border. Working with children requires sensitivity and an awareness of the ethics of keeping them safe and not retraumatizing them. I let the girls I interviewed know that I would not be publishing their names and the photographer would not be photographing their faces or any identifying details. Although I know from previous experience interviewing migrant minors that they will likely share traumatic experiences, I don’t ever press them to provide details about trauma. If they start to cry, I offer them time to take a break and remind them that they always have the option of not participating in an interview.

Many of the girls I interviewed had never had the opportunity to be children - to go to school, to play with kids their age. Shelters for unaccompanied minors try to provide them with a safe space to share their emotions, their opinions, and play games, and be creative. For many of the girls, this may be the first time in their lives that they have such a safe space.

I am thankful that these girls have trusted me with their stories, and I hope we as a society will continue working to make the world a safer place for girls.

Signing off with a message I saw written on the wall of a migrant shelter for girls: “I finally love myself” / “Ya me quiero”

Alice

Upcoming projects and events:

I will be giving a lecture at Harvard University on March 31 1-2:30 pm EST. You can register for the lecture “Reporting on the US-Mexico Border Crisis & Unaccompanied Migrant Minors” here.

Pre-order the photo book Red Flag, a project about the impact of COVID-19 in Latin America that I worked on with 19 Latin American photographers & writers Jon Lee Anderson & Marcela Turati.