Honduras’ Security Problem
The surge in unaccompanied minors making their way to the United States from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador has brought heightened attention to these countries among US and international news outlets. This year alone, an estimated 70,000 to 90,000 minors will be apprehended at the U.S. border. This is a huge spike from 2011 when 6,500 children were caught and even compared to 2013, when 24,000 minors were detained. The coveragehowever, has focused on US immigration policy debates rather than narrowing in on the reasons why these children choose to make the treacherous, and too frequently fatal, trip to the US.
Most of the unaccompanied minors are fleeing their countries due to the high rates of violence and crime. 90% of the Central American children that have been apprehended come from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, three of the most violent countries in the world. Honduras tops this list, and El Salvador and Guatemala follow it ranking 4 and 5 respectively.
On my first field visit, I met a woman whose 15-year-old daughter had fled to escape an abusive spouse who has continued to make threats of kidnapping her six-year-old daughter if his former partner isn’t “returned” to him. Other clients have reported their teenage children fleeing gang recruitment, acts of vengeance and overall threats to their security. While many in the US may be appalled by the apparent willingness for children and parents alike to fund the dangerous trip these young people take through Guatemala and Mexico, the current situation in Honduras and other Central American countries has made the route appear more and more appealing.
Many Honduran children see no future in their country due to the high levels of crime and impunity. Honduras’ homicide rate of 90.4 per 100,000 is the highest in the world in a country of only 8 million people. When so many cases of killings, kidnappings, and extortion have been exempt from punishment, their choices to flee Honduras become clearer. Migration to the United States may not be the ideal option for many – but for many it appears to them as the only option. Regardless of actions that the US may take to reduce this recent surge, it is doubtful to reverse until the violence here is significantly reduced.
Migration to the United States may not be the ideal option for many – but for many it appears to them as the only option. Regardless of actions that the US may take to reduce this recent surge, it is doubtful to reverse until the violence here is significantly reduced.