Felipe came to Nogales from northeast Guatemala. He doesn’t speak English. He barely speaks Spanish and struggles to tell his story of fleeing violence in his home town in his native mam. U.S. authorities can find no translator.
Susana (name changed to protect her identity) will have try again to make the journey to the United States with her son Daniel, 16. Both left everything they had in El Salvador to escape because a gang threatened to kill the boy for refusing to be a gang member.
In recent weeks, the world spotlight has fallen on the drama of Central American refugees crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. Yet little attention has been accorded to the ongoing, forcible population movements within Mexico caused by similar outbreaks of criminal and state violence that are propelling Central Americans north.
After three years of relative silence, the U.S. press has finally “discovered” the crisis of tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors piling up on the U.S. border. Although the coverage often began with moving stories of the hardships these young migrants faced, it soon turned ugly. For right-wing pundits and politicians, the “humanitarian crisis” has become a crackdown on kids.
Officials at the Salvadoran Foreign Ministry do not have accurate data on the number of children who are traveling to the United States illegally at the hands of smugglers. The Vice Minister for Salvadorans Abroad, Liduvina Magarín, recently visited 12 sites that function as shelters, detention centers, and migrant processing centers located in the southern U.S. border. In a single day, these places received 310 Salvadoran children. Given the traffic and movement of people in recent months, it is speculated that the daily number of children passing through that border is between 500 and 600 Salvadoran children who have been sent with coyotes to the United States.
They can’t stay and they have nowhere to go. Forced out by poverty and the threat of imminent death in their countries, extorted by organized crime, kidnapped and executed in the transit countries and deported if they make it to their destination.
There’s been a blitz of stories over the past couple of weeks on child migrants arriving on the U.S.’s southern border. It’s important that these children do not remain invisible. But most of these mainstream press stories are telling half-truths about child victims, while muddling or downright manipulating the question of who and what is responsible.