NYT: Gang Violence Driving Central American Children to US

Image: NYT: Gang Violence Driving Central American Children to US Two young girls watch a World Cup soccer match on a television from their holding area where hundreds of mostly Central American immigrant children are being processed and held at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Nogales Placement Center.

Thursday, 10 Jul 2014 09:32 AM

By Melissa Clyne

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Swelling gang violence is a key catalyst in the surge of unaccompanied minors making the dangerous journey from Central America to the U.S. border, according to The New York Times.

Since January 2013, 409 children (under age 18) have been killed in Honduras, 32 just last month, the Times reports. In neighboring El Salvador, child murders are up 77 percent from a year ago, and this after a 2012 gang truce.

Analysts tell the Times that there are two major youth gangs in Central America and other "organized crime syndicates operating with impunity."

"Basically, the places these people are coming from are the places with the highest homicide rates," said Manuel Orozco, a senior fellow at the Washington-based research group Inter-American Dialog. "The parents see gang membership around the corner. Once your child is forced to join, the chances of being killed or going to prison is pretty high. Why wait until that happens?"

While some youths are motivated to come for economic reasons – such as those from Guatemala and Nicaragua – children from Honduras and El Salvador are overwhelmingly doing so based on the peril of remaining in their home countries.

"They probably perceive the risk of traveling alone to the U.S. preferable to remaining at home," the Times reports, citing an analysis by the Department of Homeland Security.

The city with the world’s highest homicide rate – San Pedro Sula, Honduras – is also the home of the majority of the minors who have arrived at the Texas border between January and May, according the Times. More than 2,200 children from San Pedro Hula came in that five-month period, "far more than from any other city in Central America."

Honduras is also notable for another reason: It is the home of more than half of the top 50 Central American cities from which the children are coming. Guatemala and El Salvador round out the top three countries of origin.

While refugee advocates are pleading for the children to be allowed to remain in the United States, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and a host of other border state elected officials say the already overtaxed entitlement systems cannot handle the load. He pleaded with President Barack Obama to return the minors to their countries of origin.

Perry predicted the crisis in a May 2012 letter he sent to the president, to which he received no response, according to The Washington Post.

"Every day of delay risks more lives," Perry wrote. "Every child allowed to remain encourages hundreds more to attempt the journey. Entitlement system already burdened and cannot handle the influx."Perry has since blamed Obama for creating the crisis as a de facto route to legalize amnesty.

Appearing on a Sunday talk show this week, Perry said Obama’s response indicates he is "inept" or has some "ulterior motive."

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