US border patrol agents encountered approximately 19,500 unaccompanied children crossing the US border in the fiscal year of 2009 (beginning October 2008). Since then, the annual total has more than doubled to 57,525. To put this increase in context, the total in 2013 was only 27,884, and the 57,525 refers only from January to June, 2014. This crisis is intensifying, and quickly.
Migration is a Serious Problem For The US
In his interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulous, President Obama angrily condemned Central American parents for sending their children to the US border. “Don’t send your children to the border … they’ll get sent back,” he said. The White House’s new plan seeks $3.7 billion in extra funding from Congress to pay for a “surge” of enforcement officials to handle the backlog, nearly double the $2 billion anticipated when the administration first announced plans to seek extra help last month.
The child migration crisis erupted in early June, when leaked photographs showed children crushed together in a Texas holding facility while they awaited processing. Soon after, the government released figures showing that more than 52,000 unaccompanied children had reached the southern border between October 2013 and mid-June – more than double the number for the entire previous fiscal year.
The Obama administration says the wave of migration has been initiated by human-traffickers who spread rumors that children were being given legal permits to stay in the US.
The mirage of an open door on the southern US border has triggered a political storm in Washington – and helped fuel an unprecedented humanitarian crisis on America’s doorstep.
Karla is one, but not the last
According to The Guardian, Karla (a mother) and her two very young children (under the age of 15) were among the people arriving in Texas. It had taken a month for the family to make the 1,500 mile journey from the place they lived in northern Honduras, traveling by bus through Guatemala and Mexico. They had sold everything they owned to pay a network of men who work as smugglers to clear their way through checkpoints along the route.
Karla traveled north after she heard that the US had begun allowing children to enter legally, and knew others who had safely made it. But the main reason for the long trip was fear: Karla wanted to get beyond the reach of her father and his contacts in the street gangs that have turned Honduras into the country with the highest murder rate in the world.
Karla’s father was convicted of raping her as a child and sent to prison, and hired a gunman to kill her older brother who fled illegally to the US.
Finally, the strenuous journey brought the family to the banks of the Rio Bravo, where Karla thought the family’s nightmare was finally over. But a new nightmare began after they were sent straight back to Mexican immigration control, to be sent home, without any money or being taken to a detention centre in Texas.
Most of migrants are from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala
Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala are the top countries with the child migrants. Despite the fact they have smaller populations they Mexico, they have a level of violence tantamount to an unannounced regional war. Honduras has a murder rate of around 90 per 100,000 residents (the highest in the world). The average in Mexico hovers around 20, and in the US it is under 5.
Although Honduran government claimed the murder rate had fallen by 17% in the first three months of this year, two workers at the San Pedro Sula morgue (the most violent city in the world), interviewed individually, and revealed the number of bodies they receive is clearly higher today than it was a year ago.
The migrants include many teenagers traveling alone: some looking for their parents, some seeking work, and others trying to escape the violence. A good few are trying to escape all three. Heavily armed street gangs such as the Mara Salvatrucha and Calle 18 impose a reign of terror on entire neighborhoods across the region, which is also a key route for Mexican and Colombian cartels shipping narcotics north.
1. In her informative study They Take Our Jobs: And 20 Other Myths About Immigration historian Aviva Chomsky documents the discrimination Central American migrants faced in the 1980s.