Putting the Children’s Migration in Context

By Beatriz Manz, cross-posted from The Berkeley Blog

The dramatic surge in the number of Central American children and teenagers entering the US has created considerable concern among many in the United States. Already this year, 52,000 children have been apprehended. The latest estimates indicate that almost 90,000 unaccompanied minors — overwhelmingly from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras — will be picked-up by the US Border Patrol through this fiscal year ending in September 2014, almost double last year’s total.

For many of us who have conducted research in Central America, this surge is hardly surprising. What is troubling, however, is that the debate over what the US should do with these children has centered on how to deport them as rapidly as possible. The naive notion is that deportation will send an unmistakable message not to attempt the dangerous journey north.

The first question we ought to be asking is: how do we aid these traumatized, troubled young people? Much of the intense, politicized outcry over these developments ignores the fact that, at its core, our immediate treatment of these migrants is a serious human rights question and a critical humanitarian issue. The Office of the UN High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that 60 percent of the children who have fled to the US qualify for international support, including asylum, and this estimate could prove low.

Read the rest of the post at The Berkeley Blog.

 

Beatriz Manz, born in Chile, is Professor of Geography and Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of Paradise in Ashes: A Guatemalan Journey of Courage, Terror, and Hope and Refugees of a Hidden War: The Aftermath of Counterinsurgency in Guatemala.