Beyond Numbers

Mariane Quintão shares her personal story of detention as a child

I´m writing this blog to share my experience and show you what numbers can´t tell.

I would like to take you through a story that only I truly know about.

In August of 2004, my sister and I were taken to the United States to be reunited with our parents who had been living there for a couple years already.

For nearly an entire year, we went through a difficult process of adaptation, trying to make new friends and learn a language that we had never heard of.

As the years went by, we started to forget about the things we had lived back in Brazil and started to develop a passion for the different community, culture and traditions of North America. We lived as if we were Americans, and we felt as if we were Americans.

“No matter the amount of years that pass after such an experience, it never goes away. It is always behind my back”

Then one day ICE found me, and I did not have the proper identification.

I ended up at Miami´s Homeland Security where I was told “your home is not in the US.”

I spent a full day detained there and a night at Miami´s airport. On the next day, I was transferred to a New York Detention Center for Minors where I was held for a month, until I was released to my father.

The experience of detention led me to a depression I seemed to never overcome.

Being away from my family, school, friends and what the officers would say to me – no matter the amount of years that pass after such an experience, it never goes away. It is always behind my back.

I decided to voluntarily move back to Brazil where I was given the opportunity to share my story at an annual Day of General discussion at the Committee on the Rights of the Child, coordinated by the Global Campaign to End Immigration Detention of Children.

“The thing about detention that numbers can´t tell is that children who go through it feel the consequences such as depression, trauma and many other impacts it may cause”

In the event, as a Hear Our Voices participant, I met many other youth who had gone through a similar or even sadder experience than my own.

A friend of mine had lost his entire family in Afghanistan during war and ended up detained after seeking for freedom and education in a better country.

I also met a youth who was found undocumented at the border of Australia when he was a child and he ended up detained for six years. Yes, he was locked up away from his family, friends, good education and opportunities for six years.

The thing about detention that numbers can´t tell is that children who go through it feel the consequences such as depression, trauma and many other impacts it may cause.

Many children are no longer known by their names because they´re given a number. Children should be called by their names, not numbers!

I’m passionate about this topic, and I’ve made it the topic of my thesis as I finish my studies in International Relations in Brazil.

I want to prove with my thesis that no matter the circumstances, all minors should be treated equally, with equal rights to family, access to education, food and well-being. Children are fragile individuals and they must be taken care of with dignity and respect.

If you are concerned about the situation of children in detention, join the campaign and sign the petition to End Immigration Detention of Children.

 

Mariane Quintão is an International Relations student in Brazil, currently working on her thesis about Immigration Detention of Children in the USA and Australia. You can see Mariane performing in ‘Hear Our Voices’ an initiative of the Global Campaign to End Child Detention here.