Central American Child Migrants
An Urgent Crisis
Two weeks ago, Karla arrived at the Texas border with her two very young children, her mother, and three siblings under the age of 15. It had taken the family a month to make the 1,500 mile journey from their home in northern Honduras, travelling by bus through Guatemala and Mexico. They had sold everything they owned to pay a network of people smugglers who bribed the way clear through checkpoints along the route.
Karla headed north, partly because she had heard the US had begun allowing children to enter legally. This is what the smugglers were saying, and the family knew others who had safely made it across the frontier.
But the main motive for the journey was fear.
Since October 2013, nearly 50,000 Central American child migrants have arrived on the southern U.S. border. The number of unaccompanied children making the journey from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador to the United States has doubled each year since 2011. Meanwhile, requests to the U.S. and other countries in the region for asylum from individuals fleeing those three countries have also increased dramatically since 2009.
By all accounts, the reasons that child migrants report leaving their home countries include a complex mix of violence, economics, and lack of opportunity. Desire to reunite with family members already in the U.S. and belief that U.S. immigration laws have been loosened are clearly also factors. While all these factors are at play for children from all three sending countries, an analysis from the Department of Homeland Security shows that, whereas Guatemalan children arriving in the U.S. are more often from poor rural areas, those from El Salvador and Honduras tend to come from extremely violent regions.
READ: "Fleeing Gangs, Children Head to U.S. Border" -- New York Times
How you can help:
Your gift will help PADF provide new opportunities to children, youth and their families in Honduras who are facing severe violence and economic hardship. By giving today, you will be helping PADF provide education, employment opportunities, health and other services to returning children and families and to communities where youth feel pressured to emigrate.
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The factors causing young people to emigrate from Central America to the U.S. are complex. PADF views the very large increases in child migrants as the symptom of deep-seated socio-economic problems in their home countries. Some of the leading causes for migration include:
- Violence: Statistics from the U.S. Border Patrol indicate a strong relationship between the number of child migrants from a particular areas and those areas’ rates of violence. In 2012 Honduras’s homicide rate was 90.4 people for every 100,000 inhabitants—18 times higher than in the U.S.—a problem that is affecting youth in particular;
- Threats from gangs: For most child migrants from Honduras, social violence, and specifically, threats from local gangs are the primary reason. Anecdotal evidence is supported by the large jump in asylum requests – a 712% increase between 2008 and 2013 - by Honduran, Salvadoran, and Guatemalan migrants to safer neighboring countries such as Belize, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Panama;
- Economic hardship: High levels of violence are combined with economic hardship. Honduras is among the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere; more than 30% of Hondurans live on less than $2/day. Scarce jobs and lack of economic opportunities are frequently cited by adults and children alike as reasons for coming to the U.S.
Our Response – Focus on Honduras
As the operational arm of the Organization of American States (OAS), PADF has the presence, partners and systems in Honduras to launch an effectively and immediate response to this growing humanitarian crisis. PADF has both a long history of providing support to Honduras and a strong network of current partners ranging from small NGOs to the private sector to the public sector.
PADF is working with local partners in Honduras to channel support into comprehensive grassroots programs to provide education, employment opportunities, health and other services to returnees and to communities where youth feel pressured to emigrate. These include national and community-based NGOs providing essential services to highly vulnerable children and families, private sector companies eager to be part of the solution, and the Honduran government. In San Pedro Sula, the hardest-hit city, PADF is working with the St. Vincent’s Society to provide a donation of 20,000 lbs. (9 tons) of fortified rice.