Gangs, Violence, and a Flood of Migrant Children

There has been a tremendous amount of media attention in the United States on what is described as a flood of migrant children illegally crossing the US-Mexico border. Statistics referenced in a recent NPR article estimate that more than 50,000 unaccompanied children have been detained by US border patrol in the last eight months.

Much of the US media coverage has also emphasized a belief of migrant children and their families that they can receive political asylum or that there are other mechanisms in place that will allow them to stay in the US once they cross. What is also starting to get more media attention are the factors pushing migrant children to take the risk of traveling long distances alone in hopes of making it into the US. A recent New York Times article does a nice job of describing the fear of gangs and violence in some Central American cities and the role it plays as a driver of the recent flood of migrant children to the US border.

The severity of the gang and violence problem portrayed in some Central American cities in the NYT article is shocking with some city blocks described as empty and other significant internal displacement because of gangs. I can understand taking the risks of trying to make it into the US if faced with these issues. What is less clear to me is what should be done to address the gang issues that are pushing so many children to leave their homes. And then there is the heated and ongoing debate in the US about what steps if any the US should take in responding to the issue.


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