Most attentive parents today rarely allow their children to go unsupervised, particularly in public. It starts with the wireless baby monitor for the crib and ends with the ever-present cell phone at college graduation.
This is what makes reports from the US-Mexican border so perplexing to most Americans. It is hard to believe that parents would send their children, even young children, to travel many hundreds of miles, up to 1,600 miles without guardianship, or under the control of “mules” who guide the children with the hope of a safe voyage to the United States.
The journey is both harsh and dangerous. The northern regions of Central America (i.e., Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador) and Mexico are some of the most dangerous areas of the world. The climate can be harsh, roads and travel conditions are mostly poor, and the children are subjected to robbers, kidnappers, rapists, government police and soldiers, drug cartel members, and bandits of all sorts.
As unbelievable as it seems, Central American parents are sending their children, or more often asking their children to join with them in the United States, in large numbers. In many cases the children flee on their own accord without any guardian.
A decade ago US Border Patrol agents apprehended only several hundred unaccompanied children per year. Over the last nine months they have caught nearly 50,000. Official estimates project the capture rate to reach 10,000 per month by this fall. Those numbers actually hide the enormity of the problem because historically the problem was largely restricted to Mexican children who could be immediately returned to Mexico. During the last couple of years, the majority of growth has come from children from Central American countries and these must be processed and turned over to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (part of HHS).
One suggested reason for the explosion of child immigrants from Central America is the perception and rumors that children from Central America who cross the border will receive a “proviso” which might suggest a permit to stay in the US legally. However, it seems that the proviso is really just a notice to appear in immigration court for deportation proceedings. Whether this gives the children more time in the US, or whether it increases the probability of them being allowed to stay in the US for humanitarian reasons is unclear. In one report, only 1 of 404 children specifically mentioned the possibility of benefiting from US immigration reform.
Even if the proviso rumor was having an impact, it does not explain why the children and their parents would risk such a dangerous journey in the first place