Fewer unaccompanied children make it to the US - that does not mean they are not trying

Statistics from the US Border Patrol are available which show the apprehensions of unaccompanied minors from El Salvador who cross the US southwestern border.   The statistics show that apprehensions dropped significantly from fiscal year 2014 (Oct. 2013-Sept. 2014) to the most recent fiscal year ended September 30, 2015:

In addition, there were 10,872 families from El Salvador detained in fiscal 2015, down from 14,883 the year before.

Do the decreasing number of apprehensions at the US border mean that fewer Salvadorans are trying to make it north to the US fleeing the endemic violence and mayhem caused by gangs in poor communities?    Almost certainly not.   Instead, the numbers reflect the increasing difficulty for migrants to make the journey north through Mexico and a US-funded crackdown by Mexican authorities.

According to Guatemalan migration authorities, there has been a 33% increase in the number of Central Americans deported by land from Mexico across the Guatemalan border compared to the same period one year ago. Within that group, Salvadoran migration authorities say there was a 51% increase in deportations of Salvadorans from Mexico in January through August of this year compared to the prior year.   (The statistics do not indicate the ages of those deported).

Sonia Nazario, the author of “Enrique’s Journey: The Story of a Boy’s Dangerous Odyssey to Reunite With His Mother.” recently returned to the migrants' trail through Mexico in an op-ed in the New York Times titled The Refugees at Our Door.  She reports:
“The U.S. government is sponsoring the hunting of migrants in Mexico to prevent them from reaching the U.S.,” says Christopher Galeano, who spent last summer researching what’s happening in Mexico for human rights groups there. “It is forcing them to go back to El Salvador, Honduras, to their deaths.” 
I went to Mexico last month to see the effects of the crackdown against migrants, who are being hunted down on a scale never seen before and sent back to countries where gangs and drug traffickers have taken control of whole sections of territory. More than a decade ago, I rode on top of seven freight trains up the length of Mexico with child migrants to chronicle hellish experiences at the hands of gangs, bandits and corrupt cops who preyed on youngsters as they journeyed north. Compared with today, that trip was child’s play.
Later on:
Although President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico said when he announced the so-called Southern Border Plan that it was to “protect the human rights of migrants as they pass through Mexico,” the opposite has happened. By the Mexican government’s own accounting, 72,000 migrants have been rescued from kidnappers in recent years. They are often tortured and held for ransom. The survivors tell of being enslaved working in marijuana fields or forced into prostitution. Many are killed — sometimes they have organs harvested — in what’s become an invisible, silent slaughter. The government push has been interpreted as open season on migrants who have become prey to an exploding number of criminals and the police who rob, rape, beat and kill them. 
The crackdown has forced migrants to travel in ways that are harder, take longer, are more isolated and have fewer support mechanisms. New measures have made riding on top of freight trains north, a preferred method for anyone who cannot afford a $10,000 smuggler fee, incredibly difficult. In Tierra Blanca, Veracruz and elsewhere, tall concrete walls topped with concertina wire have been constructed to thwart migrants. In Apizaco, the Lechería train station outside Mexico City and elsewhere, chest-high concrete pillars, or rocks, have been installed on both sides of the tracks so migrants cannot run alongside moving trains and board them.
Read Nazario's entire opinion piece here.
My conversations in El Salvador with Salvadorans most at risk of gang threats and extortion reveal that the path to the US is an option always thought about and often acted upon.   As the killings reach unprecedented levels, more Salvadorans are going to flee, not fewer, no matter how many public service announcements are aired in El Salvador warning them not to try to enter the US.   The US approach to using Mexico to do its border enforcement is simply inhumane.  


Unknown said…
Tim, you are obviously well-informed about El Salvador, and likewise it is clear that you love the people. One thing that frustrates me is the focus in so many places and by so many with a public voice on the problems instead of the solutions. The last line of your post says, "The US approach to using Mexico to do its border enforcement is simply inhumane" ... but what is the US to do? What are the solutions? What do you recommend?

And before you comment, please consider the political environment and current citizenship of the USA, particularly along the border. The overwhelming majority of those who live in the border states or near the border (Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California) support stopping or greatly slowing the migration. The majority of US citizens and politicians support a limited imigration policy. Moreover, if the US simply opened up its borders and let anyone in who wants to come here, there would be chaos and an inability to support that increased population, and of course the flow would never end; and I might add, that is a pipedream that will never happen, for I am quite confident that the USA will never do that.

So, I am trying to at least be simpathetic to the people who must stay in their home country and face trouble, but I'm still not sure what the solutions are. What is the USA to do? Please be realistic in any response that you might offer.
Tim said…
Keith, good questions.

I think you reduce the flow of migrants by reducing the root causes of this migration -- the horrible gang violence, poverty and lack of economic opportunity. Rather than trying to stop the flood of migrants with dams and barriers, you need to reduce the reasons people flee their countries for the relative safety of the US. Let me assure you that no mother wants to send her teenage son or daughter on this perilous journey through Mexico -- they know the risks -- but the risks for a teenager in the gang-controlled colonias of El Salvador are even greater. They are literally fleeing for their lives.

The US and El Salvador together need to reduce those risks so that the balance no longer tips in favor of making the journey. Instead, the US seems to have a policy of allowing the risks of the journey to steadily increase as a way of trying to deter migration, but at the cost of thousands of lives.

So, as a starting point, El Salvador is desperately looking for funding for Plan El Salvador Seguro, a plan to address violence which is supported by all segments of society and has been widely praised. The US could easily fund that program for a tiny fraction of what we spend on border security.

In the interim, US immigration policy needs to be adjusted to more readily allow asylum claims and refugee status for people whose lives are truly at risk. And the administration needs to be able to talk to the US public about what those risks are, and why the best principles of the US support providing protection to children in deadly danger.
Unknown said…
As always, you provide very informed responses ... however, if that represents your solution(s), then it seems necessarily that your battlefront is in the real of politics or lobbying or trying to raise awareness through your blog. All of those things are good, however my fear is that all of your good intentions will simply be words that don't make any real impact. Through your blogging, can you really get the US Government to do the things you suggest? Perhaps so, but likely no. I would never discourage you from continuing to sound the alarm, to inform people, to lay out suggested policy -- because who knows where it could lead -- but what I am asking you for are solutions that are more realistic, more achievable, and more readily available to the most of us that are not in any connected to politics. Short of sending money (such as to Plan El Salvador Seguro), what are small simple things that anyone can do to push the needle ever so closer to safety and security and wellbeing for Central Americans? One thing would be prayer/meditation ... certainly effectual. Another thing is the work that so many wonderful NGOs are doing to help people, give them a way to make money, etc. ... perhaps you could post a list of all the NGOs that are doing wonderful work there (I have a small list at http://fotopala.com/volunteer-in-el-salvador/), and that list might inspire people to volunteer. As wonderful and informed and inspiring is your blogging and concern for El Salvador, there is a part of me that feels that it is too pie in the sky, too unrealistic, too unachievable ... we need to come up with a list of solutions that are more practical and engage more people so that, God willing, a critial mass is actualized.
I think when the business of people management is to foster need while minimizing independence, you'll always have people seeking the opportunity to realize some semblance of their idea of 'living.' When people have food and resource independence, they'll have less of an incentive to seek greener pastures.

Historically, places like El Salvador were (and still are) opportunities to industrialize exports to feed the world marketplace. As is done everywhere else, people are used as inexpensive labor (a commodity). What precipitated the revolution there, as I understand it, was an imbalanced leverage. Very few landowners with great political influence and a populace subject to filling few labor positions with nothing much else in terms of opportunity.

The Animal Farm hasn't changed much.

Imagine what education in...

- food production (to build sustenance)

- service and production

- civics and civil rights

...could do for El Salvador and other places mentioned in the article?

Education has fostered innovation in the idea of what America is, why can't it also do this elsewhere?

But if the management of people to feed large industries, those which the government depends on for financial support, doesn't grant the poor man a voice and neither an opportunity to feed themselves and possibly participate in the buying and selling of 'things' they see on television, people will most likely continue to travel to places they believe will allow them to work towards their ideal 'living.'
Here is a succinct summary showcasing a historical viewpoint, accumulative, and sufficient. What is missing is the role of the U.S. business incentive in the country, which is typical:

This is part of the education solution I mentioned in my first post response: