At least according to people knowledgeable about it. This Wall Street Journal report the other day had this from Honduras:
“Violence is a factor that provokes fear. But it doesn’t make a child go to the U.S.,” said Rómulo Emiliani, 66, San Pedro’s Roman Catholic bishop, who is working to pacify gang-plagued neighborhoods. “The No. 1 problem is extreme poverty, people’s desperation.”
Social workers and migrant advocates in Honduras say endemic poverty, a lack of job opportunities and the desire to reunite with parents who migrated earlier prove greater motivations for young people to leave the country than does violence.
In an op-ed today in the Journal (in case you were wondering, I do occasionally get my news from other sources), David Stoll writes about the flow from the perspective of his research in a Guatemalan town:
Some say they are escaping gang violence – although getting through Mexico is usually more perilous for Central Americans than what they face back home. If they hail from rural areas, they are likely to have more problems with gangs in U.S. cities than where they come from . . .
. . . Child migration has been mushrooming for more than a decade. An intimate portrait of the phenomenon is Sonia Nazario’s “Enrique’s Journey” (Random House, 2006), about a Honduran boy who rides Mexican freight trains to find the mother who abandoned him a decade earlier. Enrique is only 5 feet tall, but he turns out to be 17 years old, has been working for years and fathered a child.
So when you read about unaccompanied children flooding detention facilities, it is important to ask: How old are they? In the U.S., anyone under age 18 is legally a minor, but the average age of unaccompanied minors caught by the U.S. Border Patrol is 14 or 15, which in Central America is old enough to work. Many of these youths are aiming for the U.S. labor market, and often with financial support from their parents.
His piece is fascinating and worth reading in full.