Children from Central America have come to the U.S. in droves, many to escape the turmoil of poverty and violence in their own countries. They often arrive without their parents and without much but the clothes on their backs. Since October there have been over 52,000 Central American children held in custody, with immigration still increasing. However, there is a conflict of interest revealed between the Central American children wanting to migrate to the U.S. in order to seek refuge and the White House wanting to send them back to their own countries.
The U.S. is now attempting to stop the massive influx of immigrants coming in. President Obama recently requested $3.7 billion for more border patrol, detention facilities, and judges to speed up the deportation process. While the White House is trying to deal with the issue of immigrants pouring in, these children are trying to escape issues of their own. The children, mostly from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, are facing extreme dangers in their own countries that have largely been fueled by the drug trade. They have no other option than to find a safer place to live.
According to the Council of Hemispheric Affairs, these three countries have the highest murder rates per capital in the entire world. Immense corruption proliferates as gangs bribe politicians, giving the gangs more access to control the country. Children have become a victim for these gangs to use as drug mules or agents of assassin and crime. Gangs target children because they are more expendable, more easily manipulated, and less noticed by authority and can bypass security.
Guatemala was plagued with a 36 year civil war and now almost two decades later, the country is still struggling with some of the after effects. Violence still remains a prevalent part of the country, as armed groups frequent the country.
El Salvador is also battling with their own set of problems and gangs also run rampant there. However, the government’s iron-fisted policies towards these gangs have in turn made prisons extremely overcrowded. Prisons have now become centers to meet and recruit other gang members while crime rates and violence still exists. Gangs regularly threaten civilians and children; teachers reported having to pay gang members to ensure they would not be harmed. Central America is grappling with and overwhelming amount of economic poverty, political corruption and lack of public security, causing these societies to fall apart.
These reasons have pushed children out of their countries and into the U.S., desperate to find somewhere safer than their drug and gang infested cities. The way to deal with these Central American children migrants have become uncertain, revealing the conflict over different interest groups. On one hand, many groups including the United Nations refugee agency is urging the U.S. to treat these immigrants as refugees.
On the other hand, there is a growing concern for the U.S. that an overwhelming amount of migrants are pouring in. According to the White House, there is an expected 60,000 to 90,000 children to cross into the U.S. by the end of this year, and an astounding 140,000 are expected the following year.
Robert Goodlatte from the House Judiciary Committee accused Obama’s lax immigration enforcement policies last month, stating that it has encouraged more people to come to the U.S. illegally.
Because the children do not come from the immediate surrounding countries like Mexico and Canada, they cannot be deported immediately but must first go through a court hearing. This process that can last for years due to the overwhelming number of court cases.
However, President Obama has made it clear that almost all these children should expect to be deported back after the hearing minus rare exceptions to enforce a stricter immigration policy. Cecilia Munoz, director of domestic policy at the White House, stated that the U.S. borders are not open even for children who come here on their own. She further stated that their process for deportation starts right when they step into the country’s borders.
There are concerns that if the government does not stem the tides of immigrants coming in, they will continue to travel to the U.S. in an even greater measure. However, when the children are deported they will go back to the same dangerous environment that they tried to flee from. The conflict of interest reveals a tension between what is good for these Central American children immigrants and what is good for the country.
By Joyce Chu