It is a long way from Honduras to the US border in Texas: approximately 1,200 miles. It is also a hard journey, fraught with danger from bandits, child traffickers, unprincipled coyotes (smugglers), rugged terrain, desert heat, lack of food and water and one that cannot help be marked by the sense of dread that chills the heart of any child alone in the dark of night in a strange place. What would prompt a child as young as 4 or 5 (some toddlers are reported) to undertake such a journey? What would prompt a parent to either send his/her child off on such a trip? Why would these children risk their lives? Are they just migrating or are they fleeing. If fleeing, what are they fleeing from? Are they simply looking for a better life or are they “gone in search of refuge (safety) as the French root of our English word “refugee” implies? Perhaps these guys are frightening them?
Many of the children making their way from central America and especially
Honduras are fleeing the violence that surrounds them everywhere. Both the United Nations and other Human Rights groups report that Honduras is one of the most violent countries on earth and that young children are at particular risk. The Guardian reports that the murder rate in Tegucigalpa, Honduras 90.4/100,000–the highest in the world. Other Central American countries from which children are fleeing en masse are not much better.
Children are fleeing alone without parents because both they and their parents are afraid. The administration of George W. Bush recognized that these children fleeing from countries not contiguous with the U.S. were different from those entering the country undocumented from Mexico. In 2008 President Bush signed the William Willberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Re-authorization Act. This statue required that unaccompanied minors who entered the U.S. from a non-contiguous Central American nation needed to be afforded a hearing to ensure that they were not the victims of child trafficking. If a child was found to be at risk, he/she was to be resettled rather than deported.
Since the passage of that law in 2008, the number of unaccompanied children fleeing to the U.S. has risen sharply because these children could not be immediately deported, needed to be given a hearing–which typically took years to be completed during which time they could melt into general American society–and were from to time found to be at risk in their home country and granted asylum.
In short, because of a change in our law, Central American children and their parents saw the long arduous and dangerous trek to America to be one way of living a safe life free from the violence that threatened these children daily. This influx of children at risk is not the result of anything President Obama has done or not done on immigration.
This crisis is the result of the brutality and neglect of those governments/societies in Central American who have failed to nurture and protect their precious children forcing them to face death in order to flee death and reach a better level of safety in the U.S.. Even our gun incident ravished schools, pale in comparison to the violence that surrounds and oppresses these young people.
Normal planned and managed immigration is one thing, and we could certainly do a much better job at that. But, responding to the cry of children, fleeing sex traffickers bandits and neighborhood gangs is quite another. Perhaps an embrace and some sort of sanctuary are called for while the conditions under which these children would otherwise live are addressed more directly by the offending countries with the assistance of their neighbors and richer nations like our own.
Again this situation is not about immigration. This situation is about children fleeing for their lives and how you and I will respond to them in their time of need.