Over the past year, an influx of children has been immigrating to the United States. This has been connected to the increasing violence in Central America, which in turn, has recently been linked back further to the drug trade based in the areas of emigration. This drug trade seems to be fueled by markets in the United States.
Since October 2013, about 57,000 unaccompanied children have illegally crossed the U.S.-Mexico border. Three out of four of these children are from Central America, and most from Honduras.
Honduran President Juan Hernandez spoke out about the link between drug trafficking violence and children fleeing the country. “Seven out of nine children who venture on the dangerous journey toward the United States come from the most violent areas of Honduras. Those are also the regions where the drug cartels are most active,” he stated.
The President then requested the United States to aid the drug problems continuing in Central America, as the United States fuels the market. After a group of Hondurans were deported back to San Pedro Sula, Honduran first lady Ana Garcia de Hernandez spoke out about the issue, stating:
“The countries consuming drugs need to support and take joint responsibility because if there wasn’t demand, there wouldn’t be production and we wouldn’t be living like we are.”
While the cartels were mainly in Mexico and Colombia in the past, large operations were carried out to minimize the illegal drug trade there, which pushed much of the trafficking to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.
Hernandez suggests that the United States fund similar anti-drug programs in Central America that have been carried out in Mexico and Colombia in order to curb violence. This, in turn, would lead to less emigration.
While Honduras is hopeful for aid from the U.S., they are still making other plans to address the crisis. The Honduran government requested Mexican officials to add four new Honduran consulates to the U.S.-Mexico border in order to provide humanitarian aid to those who need it.
It is predicted that without U.S. aid directed toward alleviating the drug problem, more than 150,000 unaccompanied minors could leave Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras for the United States border.
Marc Rosenblum, deputy director of the U.S. Immigration Policy Program, states that one of the biggest challenges for the U.S. will be creating a balance between responding to the influx of immigrants humanely without encouraging more to cross over illegally.
The current U.S. fiscal plan announced by the Department of State is to slash $285 million in aid to Latin America and place it toward military training, drug policy and social programs. Central America is hopeful that this will change.
– Courtney Prentice