Guest blog contributor: Chet Boyd of One Hope Church
The large wave of unaccompanied children from Central America traveling through Mexico to the U.S. border gripped our hearts in the spring and summer of 2014. By this point the numbers had increased so dramatically that the issue garnered significant media coverage. Since then other world events (like the rise of the terrorist group, Islamic State) have taken the front page.
Many people are still unaware of why the surge in unaccompanied minors taking such a terribly dangerous journey happened in the first place. The “why” question is usually the least asked and yet most important of the who, what, where, when, how, why questions.
Poverty and lack of opportunity have normally been the drivers for men and women from Mexico and Central America to take the risks (murder, rape, beatings, incarceration, and deportation) involved in trying to enter the U.S. for work. Men and women who have done this view their families’ situation so desperate as to be willing to take those risks. But with full understanding of the risks, why would fathers and mothers send their unaccompanied children on such dangerous journeys? The answer is found in the combination of high levels of violence (represented in the following maps by the homicide rate), poverty (people living on less than $4 a day), and the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008.
The highest homicide rates in the region are found in Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Belize. These countries also have high levels of poverty, with 62% of the population of Honduras living on less than $4 a day.
In 2014, there was a large increase in the number of unaccompanied children that migrated to the United States across the Mexican border. The map above includes figures from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (see this article for more information). It is estimated that over 90% of children that were stopped while crossing came from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, according to the BBC. These countries also have very high homicide rates. A significant portion of the children fleeing Honduras are from San Pedro Sula, which leads Honduras’ horrifying death count.
The William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 pushed by many, including many evangelical groups, and put into law by a Democratic Congress and Republican President George W. Bush) was passed to ensure that victims of human trafficking would not be sent back to their home countries without first receiving a hearing on whether or not that was a safe course of action for the individual. It is debated whether that law protects unaccompanied children from Central America, but nevertheless, it gave hope to many families in Central America that if their children could somehow get to the “land of the free,” they would receive protection and have an opportunity for a better and longer life.
Followers of Jesus need to remember that most people from Mexico and Central America would rather stay in their home countries. Why? Because it is home. Like most from the U.S., the idea of visiting another country is exciting, but the idea of being forced to flee to another country and start over is sad and terrifying. These dear children are the neighbors that Jesus told us to love as ourselves.
- For a real move of God in the hearts of people in Central America, especially among those who are committing the violence that is ripping these countries apart. Pray for the believers in these countries to be bold with the Good News of Jesus. Pray also for the leaders of these countries.
- For the believers in Mexico to provide help for those coming from Central America
- For the believers in the U.S. to be kindhearted to migrants – especially the children
- For all nations involved to pass laws that are both just and compassionate