Evident problems in today’s society are occurring. From these epidemics, problems along the border between the U.S. and Mexico have skyrocketed to an all-time high.
Issues with drugs and violence in schools, health systems and families all play a part in the troubles American citizens and undocumented immigrants face. Adults are affected, and, even worse, so are children. Because of social issues, children sometimes become involved in gangs or become consumed with the power of drugs.
Laredo, Texas, is a location where illegal drug use is high and so is the gang-related violence. The city deals with gangs such as the Crips, the Bloods and the Mexican Mafia. The affiliates in them are Laredo citizens and also undocumented immigrants.
Chief of Police for the city of Laredo is Carlos Maldonado. He understands that gangs are a problem that have to be dealt with and that involvement can begin early.
“To become a member of a gang, they start at a very young age,” he said. “It probably goes as far down as elementary school, and that’s not unique for here.”
Laredo isn’t the only city that experiences drug cartels and acts of gang violence. With the IH-35 corridor leading into metropolitan cities such as San Antonio, Austin and Dallas, the same problems Laredo experiences have spread across the nation.
Maldonado said children in his city are involved in gangs, and he wants to reduce and ultimately wipe out the problem. Steps are being taken in Laredo that are in the right direction.
Schools are trying hard.
The United Independent School District, which is one of the ISDs located in Laredo, is looking for different solutions and pushing students who are buying drugs and joining gang-related social circles.
One solution is the S.T.E.P Academy, an alternative campus. The students who are placed in this temporary school have violated the student code of conduct in some form. This mostly consists of taking drugs to school and committing violent acts. The students are sent to the campus anywhere from 20 to 180 days.
The Director of the S.T.E.P. Academy is Eduardo Garza, who thinks the academy is positive and serves a hopeful purpose.
“The district is very proactive about the gang situation,” he said. “We do have gang counselors that serve in each high school.
“Concerning drugs, we are a reflection with what happens on the streets and that’s with any campus. There is a drug epidemic going on. Most of the kids that are coming in here are for drugs.”
As soon as the students step off the bus at the academy, they are frisked and searched for drugs. The city police officers who are assigned to the campus can only search so far, though. They look in pockets, shoes and belts.
“And we still find drugs,” Garza said. “Sometimes we will find pills. And with them even being searched, they still manage to bring drugs in.”
Garza said there are clear signs to know if a student has managed to bring drugs into the school. Glazed over eyes, blood shot eyes, or abnormal behavior such as being hyperactive are clues to the teachers and officers that a student has been taking drugs while on campus.
One of the teachers at S.T.E.P. Academy is Grace Rendon who teaches fifth grade. She knows the problems students face and tries to change their frame of mind.
“Knowing they come with baggage, I try to understand,” she said. “We don’t cut them slack, but we’re also not the typical school.”
Garza sees it all the time in schools. He said, “The poor kids are in possession of drugs because they are poor and need money, and the rich kids have them because they can afford it. It doesn’t matter your social status.”
Immigration has also affected the health systems of Laredo. Ethical issues on whether or not to help injured or ill undocumented immigrants is one of the many issues weighing on Chief Maldonado.
Churches are also affected. People affiliated with gangs have ties with churches which the church hopes to help.
A minister from Laredo, who wanted to remain anonymous, knows gang violence is a problem not only in the city, but affecting church members.
“Gang violence isn’t directly in the church here, but there are ties of it present,” he said. “Families go here and worship here with their kids being in gangs. I work with some families whose children are into drugs and alcohol and gangs.
“The parents come to the church for help. They seek guidance on what to do to help their children, but it hardly ever helps. The kids are too involved in the bad ways to get out,” he said.
Chief Maldonado knows where the drugs are coming from. But there is something else coming over the border than just drugs. In Laredo, five bridges connect Mexico with the U.S. which is the source of the entry of illegal narcotics and undocumented immigrants. And from this main problem spawns others that contribute to the troubles in the class room and also the medical field.
“I think immigration becomes an issue with our education and health system,” he said. “Our health system in particular. These are often people who have no insurance, have no means of paying for health care, so you are dealing with people who are dealing with poverty.”
Maldonado lays out a situation of what happens in the hospitals of Laredo. He describes that undocumented immigrants come in with injuries or symptoms of an illness, but what are the nurses and doctors supposed to do?
“These people show up at the hospital, and they need care for their child who suffered from whatever illness; do (hospitals) have an ethical obligation to provide the services to these children?” he asked. “They are not really our citizens to take care of, but they’re here. So what do we do with them? It’s an ethical dilemma. It’s a political issue, too.”
Undocumented immigration can pose a sadder problem for families. Undocumented immigrants sometimes come over the U.S. border by whatever means and meet someone and get married and then have children. They might get pulled over for a simple traffic violation, but now the authorities know they are not citizens and have to send them back to Mexico. Now you have an American parent with American children, but one parent is out of the picture, and the family is torn apart.
Yes, there is a crisis with the undocumented immigrants coming into the U.S. from Mexico. Children as well as adults are being affected by the ones who bring drugs and violence with them.
However, Chief Maldonado believes there are worse off cities than Laredo, and that his city is doing everything in its power to do what is right.
He said, “There are a lot more cities that are more violent than here.”