While many in the U.S. have begun focusing on the Syrian refugee crisis and the horrors committed by the Islamic State (IS) and the Assad regime, the U.S. still has a major refugee crisis along its southern border.
For decades, millions of migrants have traveled from South and Central America to the U.S. in search of better work opportunities and social benefits for themselves and their families. Recently, however, the migrant crisis has transformed into a refugee crisis, with many also traveling to the U.S. to escape the dangers of their home countries.
With the U.S. as the world’s biggest customer, a thriving drug market worth more than $300 billion has fueled the violence between gangs, each fighting for territory and the rights to sell drugs. In countries dictated by drug trades, government corruption also becomes inevitable, with police sometimes working hand in hand with gangs.
Especially in Honduras, these drug wars have displaced thousands, destroying neighborhoods and forcing their inhabitants to move north. Thousands of Honduran refugees have traveled to the U.S. in search of new lives.
In the past few years, however, U.S. investment in countries like Honduras has helped reduce violence. The American government has put money and resources into programs that dissuade youth from joining gangs and replenish impoverished neighborhoods.
Here are 10 facts about Honduras and Honduran refugees:
- One hundred and seventy-four thousand people, four percent of the country’s households, have been displaced because of violence.
- In 2011, Honduras was the murder capital of the world, with 91.6 murders per 100,000 people. In 2014, that number dropped to 66.
- In 2014, 18,000 unaccompanied Honduran children arrived at the U.S. border.
- This year, the U.S. has sent between $95 and $110 million in violence prevention funding to Honduras.
- In one pilot program, participants were deemed 77 percent less likely to commit crimes or abuse drugs and alcohol after a year of counseling, according to Creative Associates International.
- Because of fear and corruption, 96 percent of homicides do not end in a conviction in Honduras.
- There are about 23,000 gang members involved in police shootouts and turf wars daily.
- About 15,000 Hondurans applied for refugee status in 2015, double that of 2014.
- In 2014, 64.7 percent of unaccompanied minors received the asylum they applied for.
- For 2016, the U.S. has 3,000 refugee slots for applicants from Latin America and the Caribbean even though 9,000 people may be eligible.
While there is a lot of potential in the U.S. funded pilot programs, more money is necessary to enact change on a large scale. Although many may criticize the foreign aid the U.S. already gives as being too charitable, they must keep in mind the costs of receiving these refugees illegally and the cost of them making the journey north. By fixing the roots of the problem, the U.S. can prevent the symptoms from reaching its borders.
Because Honduras is filled with human rights violations, many would see the funding completely cut. This summer, government officials tried to pass a bill in Congress that would do so.
However, responding to the human rights issue by cutting funding to violence prevention may be most impractical and harmful. Although expensive, the best solution may be to continue funding violence prevention programs while beginning separate programs that address government abuse and corruption.
– Henry Gao