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The Children Streaming Across the U.S. Border Are Fleeing Violence and Poverty

The Children Streaming Across the U.S. Border Are Fleeing Violence and Poverty

The number of children caught trying to cross America’s southern border has reached such alarming levels that President Barack Obama has described the area along the Mexican border as an “urgent humanitarian situation.” On Monday, Obama directed federal agencies to coordinate their response to stem a crisis that has seen thousands of unaccompanied minors stream across the U.S. border with Mexico.

The number of children caught crossing the U.S. border has skyrocketed in recent years, according to data from U.S. Customs and Borders. The Unaccompanied Alien Children program expects to see 60,000 referrals in 2014, compared to 24,668 in 2013. The graphic below illustrates that striking increase. (Note that the graphic includes what in all likelihood is a typo: The far-left bar should be labeled 2003-2011.)

According to a map put together by the Department of Homeland security, the increase is driven by a witches’ brew of poverty and violence in Central America. The map presents a breakdown of children arriving to the United States from Central America during the first half of the year. Those from Guatemala hail mostly from rural areas, while children from El Salvador and Honduras are mostly escaping frighteningly violent cities.

Click to see a larger version of the map.

Far and away the largest group, more than 2,400 children, traveled to the United States from San Pedro Sula, Honduras, a city best known for having the world’s highest murder rate. The next most common points of origin are the Honduran cities of Tegucigalpa and Juticalpa, each of which saw more than 800 of their children caught migrating to the United States.  

Prior to 2014, the vast majority of unaccompanied children picked up at the U.S. border came from Mexico. In the first half of 2014, however, the number of children from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras increased so dramatically that Central America is now sending an equal number of children across the U.S. border.

Click here to see a larger version of the graphic.