As the matter of unaccompanied immigrant children approaches debacle-like proportions, basic human rights concerns drive understanding what fuels the epidemic wave of attempted crossings over the border. The number of unaccompanied children caught crossing is staggering, and “has surged to about 52,000 so far this fiscal year, which started in October, up from 15,700 in fiscal 2011.”
The abuses and very high homicide rates (Honduras leads the pack) and victimization of women (including high femicide rates) and children and sex slave industry, drug crimes, sequestrations, threats by “mareros”, atrocities committed against LGBTQ people and other abominations against human rights prompts so many to flee just to stay alive.
The horrors many endure including being raped on the way to “freedom” is something we know little about. Families are devastated and torn apart.
Immigrants (adults and children) ride atop huge freight trains called “La Bestia” (the beast). Some die climbing the train or lose a limb when they fall under the track. Others are the victims of criminals who prey on them. The corrupt “transportation” network includes immigration officers, train employees, transportation workers and dangerous gangs including the “Zetas” (drug lords along the train route) who kill victims who can’t pay the ransom they demand.
Here is a photo of “La Bestia” also dubbed “el tren de la muerte” (death train):
Here’s a video taken atop the train during a train ride. You can see how dangerous it is and how “passengers” have to dodge tree branches. Some fall after being hit by a branch; others are pushed off.
This video shows how immigrants try to jump on the train:
A breaking story by the PEW Research Center provides the following:
Of the thousands of unaccompanied children apprehended at the U.S. border in recent months, many can be attributed to poverty and regional violence in three Central American countries, a new U.S. Department of Homeland Security document finds. The document says the reasons driving the migration are different for each country, attributing it to local conditions.
“For example, many Guatemalan children come from rural areas, indicating they are probably seeking economic opportunities in the U.S. Salvadoran and Honduran children, on the other hand, come from extremely violent regions where they probably perceive the risk of traveling alone to the U.S. preferable to remaining at home.”
The three top municipalities sending children to the U.S. are all in Honduras. San Pedro Sula leads the list, with more than 2,200 unaccompanied minors apprehended between January and May of this year, making up at least 5% of all apprehended children since October 1st. Following San Pedro Sula are Tegucigalpa and Juticalpa, both with more than 800 apprehended children during the same period.
The Honduran and Salvadoran child migrants are from some of the most violent regions in those countries. San Pedro Sula in Honduras is the world’s murder capital, with a homicide rate of 187 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants in 2013 driven by a surge in gang and drug trafficking violence.
…the recent surge in apprehensions of children has been driven by increases in the number coming from Central America.
Think if you will, what the mental health needs of these children, yes, children!, must be given a history of three sources of emotional trauma:
- Trauma exposed to in country of origin prompting the decision to flee.
- Dangers exposed to on the way to “freedom.”
- Trauma by being placed in overcrowded “jail-like” detention facilities. These children, already vulnerable and emotionally fragile, face the added burden of not knowing what lies ahead and what is to become of them.