Photo: Children immigrants (UNESCO)
Most of the unaccompanied Central American minors who illegally enter the United States across the southern border are fleeing violence in their homelands, a U.S. researcher says.
“Minors and their parents think the risk for children en route to the United States is not nearly as great as the risk of staying in their own country, because they feel that staying there is to die,” Elizabeth Kennedy told Efe.
“In my original research with Salvadoran minors, I found that out of 400 respondents, of whom I analyzed 322, 60 percent said they are fleeing from gang threats or fear of the police, which signifies forced migration,” she said.
Kennedy, a joint doctoral student at the University of California, Santa Barbara and San Diego State University, received a U.S. Fulbright Student Award to carry out the study in El Salvador.
Her numbers are similar to the figures released last month by the U.N. Refugee Agency, which shows that fear is the reason that 66 percent of Salvadoran children migrate and 54 percent of Hondurans.
“The migration of children from El Salvador is due to the violence of the Mara Salvatrucha and Mara 18 (gangs). It’s the same in Honduras, but in that country there are other elements of pressure, which are a life of poverty, drug cartels and other criminal groups,” Kennedy said.
“In Guatemala, besides street gangs and cartels, children emigrate because of the extreme poverty and so much domestic violence. Most Guatemalan minors who emigrate are low-income Indians from rural areas who are discriminated against,” she said.
According to official figures, so far in fiscal year 2014, which started last Oct. 1, more than 52,000 unaccompanied minors were detained when they tried to enter U.S. territory illegally.