This incredible picture (below) comes from the report written by the Committee on Migration of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Access complete report at: http://www.usccb.org/about-migration-and-refugee-services/
This delegation visited El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico on November 2013. Their intention was to study the factors impacting the great increase in numbers of young children making the dangerous journey north. While there are many factors, such as: absence of economic opportunities, lack of access to education, the inability of individuals and families to support themselves and the desire to reunite with family already in the United States. However, they found that the overriding factor that plays a decisive role in this increase of migration is ” the generalized violence at the state and local levels and a corresponding breakdown of the rule of law that have threatened citizen security and created a culture of fear and hopelessness.” In their report they mention that “violence, coercion, including extorsion, kidnapping, threats, and coercive and forcible recruitment of children into criminal activity, are perpetrated by transnational criminal organizations and gangs and they have become part of everyday life in all of these countries, exerting control over communities.” Unfortunately the government has been unable to gain control over them and their numbers according to the United Nations Office of Drug and Crime for the year 2012 were estimated as 20,000 gang members in El Salvador, 12, 000 in Honduras and 22, 000 in Guatemala.
Additional important factors highlighted in this report refer to the impact that the violence and the lack of the economic opportunities has on the family. Poor families experience a breakdown that leaves children unprotected. This has also resulted in an increase in family violence and child abuse. These criminal organizations are also getting involved in the control of the migrating routes and working with the smugglers that guide the children selling them their “help” for $5,000 to $7,000 each, which in these poor countries means 18 months of earning for an entire family. When the families cannot pay the costs, these criminals take control of their property,leaving these families homeless.
As these youngsters manage to flee the violence in the community, they have to face the possibility of crime and mistreatment on their journey through Mexico and towards the border by drug traffickers, human traffickers and even law enforcement. And as the report adds, the stories they received from the young victims who were back in their countries of origin were horrific.
The delegation states in this report that “a significant number of migrants, particularly youth, have valid asylum claims.” Thus cautions against denying them asylum and sending these youngsters back as that could “ensure their demise.”
Based on these, and other findings, the delegation of bishops has a great number of important recomendations for the United States and for the countries visited, in order to aliviate this problem and increase the security of these minors. They end up making a call to the government of the USA, and all others of good will, to pursue solutions for this very vulnerable population whithin a compassionate frame of mind.