Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Coverage of why children are migrating in great numbers

The flow of unaccompanied children from Central America across the US southern border has produced a flood of news coverage.  Many in the US may be learning for the first time about the situations in El Salvador and the rest of the region which prompt children as well as adults to make the perilous journey north.  Because as many as 50,000 minors have recently been apprehended by US border authorities, the Obama administration faces a humanitarian and political crisis.

A good overview of the issues is provided in this piece at Vox.com: 14 facts that help explain America's child-migrant crisis.    Also providing an overview was today's article from the Guardian titled ‘Flee or die’: violence drives Central America’s child migrants to US border, which looks at many facets of the crisis including interviews with children who fled the violence of Honduras.

Much of the coverage focuses on telling stories of gang violence in El Salvador as one of the reasons why so many children are leaving their homes.  An example was this article from a Dallas TV station, Poverty, murder propel teen Salvadoran girl to Dallas, which tells the story through one family's attempt to hire a human smuggler to get their daughter out of harm's way in their community in El Salvador.

To similar effect was El Salvador gangs kill teachers over as little as a failing grade in the Los Angeles Daily News:
 Gang members in El Salvador recruit even in grade schools, where parents themselves are often involved with gangs, known here as “maras.” Principals are forced to collect money from teachers to pay “la renta,” the cynical term for extortions, and many have found themselves caught between opposing gangs trying to extort the same school. 
Zetino said one MS-13 gang member recently offered to provide his school protection from the rival Barrio 18 gang. “It’s a sick joke,” he said. “What security can they offer me? But they are that bold now.” 
Educators under threat often keep family members in the dark about it, so as not to involve or alarm them.
Tim Johnson of McClatchy has written a few longer articles from El Salvador interviewing those living with the ever present fear of the gangs.  His articles include:

 2 street gangs divide up El Salvador’s capital, bringing chaos to all:

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador -- Every day, as she travels to the food stall she operates, Mirna Isabel Villalta crosses an invisible but dangerous boundary. 
Her modest home is in a part of San Salvador controlled by the Mara Salvatrucha, a gang so ruthless and sprawling that the Obama administration has labeled it an international criminal organization. Her food stall is in the city center in an area controlled by Barrio 18, a gang that despises the Mara Salvatrucha. 
She knows she’s breaking an unspoken rule. 
“You can’t go from one barrio to the other,” Villalta said. But she does. Every day. And she keeps mum to those around her food stall about where she lives.  “They don’t know we live in Mara Salvatrucha territory,” she said.
 For Salvadoran family, clash with gang takes a heavy toll:
Parents are particularly distraught over the gangs’ power to recruit adolescent boys and to co-opt girls, often forcibly, into becoming partners of gang bosses, sometimes simply kidnapping them. 
Minors from El Salvador compose 21 percent of the more than 52,000 unaccompanied minors who’ve crossed into the United States since Oct. 1, according to Department of Homeland Security figures.
Tim Johnson alse wrote about how the US was trying to deter more minors from trying to make the journey in a story titled U.S. amps up warning to parents of child migrants:
Since the weekend, newspapers, radio and television stations and websites in Central America and Mexico have aired U.S. warnings to parents that their children would be deported if they make their way past the Rio Grande into Texas. 
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson issued a statement Sunday, widely printed in Monday’s newspapers in the region, calling on parents to heed the dangers of letting their children go off alone to cross international borders. 
“To the parents of these children I have one simple message: Sending your child to travel illegally into the United States is not the solution,” Johnson said in the statement. 
“The criminal smuggling networks that you pay to deliver your child to the United States have no regard for his or her safety and well-being,” Johnson said. “To them, your child is a commodity to be exchanged for a payment. In the hands of smugglers, many children are traumatized and psychologically abused by their journey, or worse, beaten, starved, sexually assaulted or sold into the sex trade.”
The publicity over the US warnings was described by Bob Ortega of The Arizona Republic, in an article titled Media in Central America to migrants: Don't go to U.S.:
SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador -- The news vendor threaded her way through a traffic-snarled boulevard in this humid, tropical city, hawking tabloid papers. The message she carried was clear: 
"The U.S. will not give asylum to migrant children," blared Thursday's front page of La Prensa Grafica, one of the largest papers in El Salvador. 
Other newspapers sported similar headlines. It has been all but impossible in this country in recent days to look at a newspaper, listen to the radio or watch a TV newscast without hearing this message. The same message that Vice President Joe Biden delivered in Guatemala City on Friday at a meeting with leaders from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico. 
Much of this past week, evening newscasts either led with or prominently featured reports that minors apprehended in the United States would be deported back to El Salvador. In neighboring Honduras and Guatemala, too, recent news coverage could scarcely have stated more clearly that the U.S. government says it will deport migrant children who cross the border illegally.
Some of the perils of the trip north were described by PBS in Migrants seeking security often encounter violence along their route:
Many migrants from Central American countries report being mugged, raped or threatened with other violence as they try to make their way to the United States, according to a survey recently released by Doctors Without Borders. 
The aid organization has set up clinics along migration routes to the border in southern and central Mexico to provide medical and mental health services. Fifty-eight percent of the migrants said they experienced one or more incidents of violence on their journey north, according to 396 patients surveyed from July 2013 to February 2014.
Looking for solutions, Carin Zissis of AS/COA searches the 2012 gang truce in El Salvador for indications of possible strategies to combat gang violence in Learning From a Troubled Gang Truce.

Researcher Sonja Wolf takes a look at the history of public security challenges in El Salvador in The security agenda for El Salvador's new president and proposes some steps which need to be taken to lessen the violence.

Finally, fellow blogger Linda reflects on The Journey North:
We see and hear the stories of thousands of Salvadoran children who left their homes or were sent from their homes by their parents.  They leave with a small bundle of clothes.  They carry no phones nor phone numbers so that drug thugs or gang members cannot track down their families and demand ransom.  They depend on the kindness of family and strangers in Guatemala to give them food and shelter.  They sneak across the border into Mexico.  They hop onto moving freight trains.  The girls fear being raped.  They move forward, hanging onto the dream that in the United States they will find work.  No matter how hungry they are or how many nights they sleep out in the cold, they are not deterred.  They know hunger, and a night in the cold can be safer than a night in a Salvadoran community held captive by gang violence. 
These are the driving forces of the journey:  the desire for work and the desire to live free from violence.

1 comment:

Lawrence M. Ladutke said...

take action via Amnesty International at http://bit.ly/1mzGPZJ