Children Do Not Migrate, They Flee
Over the summer, when a massive influx of unaccompanied children streamed across the U.S.-Mexican border, it sparked a political crisis, and a heated debate about the surge's causes. Politicians critical of the Obama administration's immigration policies argued that the children were coming merely for economic reasons (that is, simply to take American jobs), rather than to escape war and gang violence. But few have bothered to look closely at the economic roots of Central America's epidemic of violence.
In rural parts of Guatemala poverty has become life-threatening, such as the town of Quetzaltenango, where as much as 93 percent of the population lives in poverty. Children rarely attend school, forced instead to work from as young as six years old. This poverty, the experts say, is the true root of Central America's violence surge, and the desperate surge of children away from their families and toward the only place they think they can have a future. As one Guatemalan migrant shelter official said, "Children do not migrate, they flee."