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Sharing Blame For Central America's Child Migrants

There was shock after the latest report from U.S. Border Patrol found an explosion of young people being sent northward from Central America. Why it isn't just about the parents.

 A May 2014 demonstration in support of child migrants in Los Angeles.
A May 2014 demonstration in support of child migrants in Los Angeles.
Martín Rodríguez Pellecer

Sure, let's put up a wall and inform their parents of the risks. They must have sent their children to the United Sates, through Mexico — which trafficking gangs have turned into a migrants' hell — because they had no idea it would be dangerous. Or because they are too ambitious about their children's futures? Or not enough?

What we know, instead, is that these parents have been rendered so desperate by internal poverty that they send their sons and daughters to dangerous cities like Guatemala City, San Salvador, Tegucicalpa or San Pedro Sula.

This humanitarian crisis should be a national tragedy for Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. What the some 47,000 child migrants of the last eight months are saying to the world, and to us, is that life is so dangerous, humiliating and bereft of prospects that in spite of being boys and girls, they migrate with the dream of some kind of opportunity 3,000 kilometers away.

The other half

Families in extreme poverty have tried and failed to come out of poverty for generations, sending their children to work as domestic servants, to shine shoes on the streets or work on the fields. It doesn't help much.

Meanwhile, the other half of us who live with opportunities in Central American societies, keep wasting them. We avoid paying taxes that could finance schools and hospitals and hopeful projects for children. We ignore the rule of public tenders and give projects to friends and partners that essentially plunders state coffers. We refuse to pay better salaries. We stifle girls and women. Certain people channel all our energies toward maintaining the status quo, giving us the idea that extremist ideologies will save us all from poverty.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden comes and tells us to, please, stop the bloodletting and the children migrating, which we duly promise to do. We say we shall do it by prosecuting gangs and by informing families that their children will not be given asylum if they arrive alone.

Do you know what the children reply when journalists ask them what they will do if deported? That they don't care, and will try coming back. A 14-year-old boy told a journalist from El País that he had travelled to avoid "starving to death" in his village. As the priest Ricardo Falla said once, nobody wants to be poor these days. So, perhaps we should prosecute not just the mafia gangs, but also poverty and inequality itself, so people do not become so frustrated and try and leave, or send their children out through Mexico.

While things are improving and middle-class opportunity is slowing growing, 50,000 children are telling us that our efforts in Central America are not enough and we cannot wait so long for people to come out of our collective poverty.

And every month lost in politics and the national economy constitutes the loss of 50,000 future lives leaving the country at all costs. Those who think nothing can be done should think again, and do something to prompt those in power to wake up and lead.

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Cfoto/DDP via ZUMA
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