by Jeanne Crump, Social Performance Intern
Although not even a year has passed, the 2014 Central American child migrant crisis has nearly been ignored in recent media. Some might assume the U.S. government and border control have since “taken care” of the issue. But the unfortunate fact remains that children are still fleeing Central America every day – either from staggering gang violence, a lack of economic opportunity, poverty, or in hopes of reuniting with family members residing in the United States. In 2014, the U.S. government reported catching 47,000 unaccompanied minors crossing into the US – 24% were Guatemalans.
Yet, this number only reflects those who were detained at the border. Hundreds or thousands more migrant children could have crossed the border successfully, only to end up in the hands of traffickers or in vulnerable positions of exploitation by smugglers. Many girls become victims of sexual violence and rape. Others could be exploited as laborers, since many children may not have family to provide shelter and stability once they arrive. Moreover, those detained and deported may face an even more dangerous road once they return to their home countries, as many are dropped off at airports or bus stations in major cities and are again prime targets for coyotes, smugglers, and traffickers.
Our staff at Friendship Bridge is deeply concerned and saddened by these events. In 2014, we responded to the crisis through our client education program — by spreading the truth about the dangers of this treacherous journey to more than 22,000 Guatemalan women. Our education manager in Guatemala incorporated information on the crisis in the August 2014 education session, including statistics of the children who had already been detained, the dangers of physical assault, sexual violence, and the risks of being abducted, kidnapped, or even killed.
We know the more economic opportunities we can provide and create for our clients in Guatemala, the less need there will be for this dangerous migration. We will continue to help build strong and sustainable businesses that provide a better livelihood for our clients and their families. In turn, this will help ensure children remain in school and work towards breaking the cycle of generational poverty.