Born in New York and raised in Ecuador, Aneth Naranjo has dedicated her life to elevating and empowering youth voices. As a freshman in high school, Naranjo joined the Hispanos Unidos club, a space for Latinx students to come together and learn about the significance of their history. The Hispanos Unidos club built her passion for her culture’s rich history. Elevating that culture in a predominantly white school empowered Naranjo to pursue her leadership skills and involvement in youth activism. As the president of her senior class, she worked to continue making the Hispanos Unidos club a safe space for Latinx students. Naranjo also organized panel discussions and workshops that educated the whole school about Latinx culture. For Naranjo, it was crucial to build a space where future Latinx students can find comfort and empowerment.

Naranjo currently works as Director of Youth Leadership in IntegrateNYC, a youth-led organization that fights to integrate New York City public schools. As Director of Youth Leadership, Naranjo works with young people to build their leadership skills and policy around their stories and their demands. She has found a passion in connecting with students all over New York City and listening to their stories. Naranjo understands that in order for education policy to work, student voice has to be in the forefront. Her hope is to increase integration so that students are able to go to schools where they feel safe, supported, and represented.

Naranjo is a Macaulay Honors student at John Jay College, studying Latin American Studies and Philosophy. She plans to go to law school to become an immigration lawyer in hopes of representing unaccompanied children and reforming current American immigration laws.


Unaccompanied Latino Youth

An excerpt from “Unaccompanied Latino Youth”

by Aneth Naranjo

In 2008, my mom and dad took me and my sister to pick up our cousins who had just crossed the border. When they crawled out of the back of a van, the first thing I noticed was that they seemed much older than they actually were. My oldest cousin was 14 years old, and my two other cousins were 10 years old and 8 years old. My youngest cousin is actually the same age as me, but the violence in Ecuador and crossing the border had forced her to mature much quicker. In Ecuador, gangs recruit kids as young as nine every day and spread fear and violence throughout communities. My cousins had left Ecuador for the same reason my family did– to have a safe life. However, the lack of documentation led them to endure traumas that still haunt them today. Thousands of kids have had a similar experience to my cousins’ experiences. The reason why I’m so passionate about this topic is because I saw the pain my cousins had to go through. I saw the physical and mental scars they received for wanting a safer home, and no child deserves to go through that. Most unaccompanied Latino youth flee to the United States because of the violence in their country of origin. If caught by ICE, there are certain laws and programs that help unaccompanied Latino children stay and reintegrate in the United States. However, the United States should be doing more to help these children who are refugees in need of a safe home.

In part, the United States is responsible for the increase of violence in the Northern Triangle countries. In the 1970s and 1980s, the United States supported wars against popular movements seeking social change. The United States also deported gang members back to their countries of origin, which resulted in the strengthening of the transnational link between the Central American and United States’ gangs. Based on this history and the fact that all children deserve a safe environment, the United States should take bigger and more concrete steps on reforming its immigration policy. For example, the United States could make attorneys more accessible for unaccompanied children that are detained. They can also change their screening process for unaccompanied children “given [the] trauma and developmental stage” (Trip Delegation, 9) since these factors affect how much information a child can give. Overall, the federal government should hire more children behavior experts to go through the process with these children so they are able to treat unaccompanied children for what they are, children. The federal government should also change immigration policies so that it’s easier to obtain asylum status. It’s unfair to ask these children for evidence of being sex slaves, gang members, drug traffickers, etc. when they were forced into those situations.

In the United States, one of the most controversial topics is immigration. A lot of people oppose immigration, claiming that the people coming in are criminals and, according to President Trump, rapists and bad hombres. However, if you look at the data from the 2010 American Community Survey (ACS) about “1.6 percent of immigrant males age 18-39 are incarcerated, compared to 3.3 percent of the native-born” (Ewing, Walter, Martinez D., Rumbaut R). Statistics from the American Immigration Council also show that crime has decreased while immigration has increased. “Between 1990 and 2013, …the number of unauthorized immigrants more than tripled from 3.5 million to 11.2 million. During the same period, FBI data indicate that the violent crime rate declined 48 percent…. [T]he property crime rate [also] fell [to] 41 percent” (Ewing, Walter, Martinez D., Rumbaut R). Like my research shows, most immigrants are fleeing violence, not looking to cause it. The misunderstandings of immigration, especially the immigration of unaccompanied children, is preventing the United States from providing better services to refugees who really need our help.


-Aristy, K. (2017, November 6). Personal Interview.

-Kids In Need Of Defense. “Neither Security or Justice: Sexual and Gender-Based Violence and

Gang Violence In El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala.” Kids In Need Of Defense. May 4th, 2017. November 1st, 2017. Retrieved from:

-Carlson Elizabeth and Gallagher Marie Anna. “Humanitarian Protection for Children Fleeing

Gang-Based Violence in the Americas.” Journal on Migration and Human Security. November 1st, 2017. Retrieved from: file:///Users/anethnaranjo/Downloads/47-149-2-PB.pdf

-Hill Kelly Linda. “The Right to be Heard: Voicing the Due Process Right to Counsel for

Unaccompanied Alien Children.” Boston College Third World Law School. 2011. November 1st, 2017. Retrieved from:

-Trip Delegation. “Mission to Central America: To Flight of Unaccompanied Children to

the United States.” United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. November, 2013. November 5th, 2017. Retrieved from:

-Ewing, Walter, Martinez D., Rumbaut R. “The Criminalization of Immigration in the United

States.” American Immigration Council. July 13, 2015. December 10th, 2017. Retrieved from:

-Cashin, Madeleine and McPherson, Giulia. “A Fair Chance For Due Process: Challenges in

Legal Protection For Central American Asylum seekers And Other Vulnerable Migrants.” Jesuit Refugee Service/USA. November 19th, 2017. Retrieved from: