If you send your children to fly on their own they are called “unac- companied minors.” Well, the kids I am thinking about are also “unac-
companied minors” but the description
used is where any similarity ends.
For them, there are no flight attendants
looking after them, no movies, and no
welcoming receptions when they arrive.
And they don’t travel in jet airplanes. They
endure roads that are a chiropractic association’s dream. They are crammed in all
manner of vehicles, in sweltering heat, like
proverbial sardines in a can. They have to
somehow get across Mexico’s southern
border and then across the U.S.-Mexico
border. They are truly “unaccompanied
minors.” They travel without their mom,
dad, or any adult relative, all seeking to
make it to America.
They are alone.
They are scared.
The one thing that they can cling to,
that keeps them going, is hope.
In the last three years over 200,000
unaccompanied minors have sought
refuge, and more importantly, hope, by
somehow finding their way to the United States. In one two-month period over
10,000 crossed the U.S.-Mexico border.
In 2014, 14 out of 100 of the unaccompanied minors were between six and 12
years old. That’s right—kids who should
be at home playing games are traveling
close to 2,000 miles in search of safety.
They come from a host of countries
including Honduras, Guatemala, and El
Salvador—countries with some of the
highest murder rates in the world.
They Come Looking for Hope
These kids aren’t risking their lives
making this hellish a journey for laughs
and giggles. There’s only one threat
that makes this risk rational: the odds of
being beaten, kidnapped, raped, or killed
are even greater if they stay home than if
they risk the journey. (An estimated six
of 10 immigrant girls and women experi-
ence sexual violence in transit through
Mexico including violence at the hands
of gangs, smugglers, police, immigration
officials, and other migrants.) 1
“Otto,” from Honduras, was 10 years
old when he crossed the Rio Grande into
the U.S. By the age of 10, he had seen his
grandmother shot in the face, an aunt and
cousin physically and sexually assaulted,
and had been beaten and threatened himself. Despite all this, he didn’t leave. Then
the gangs, all too prevalent in Honduras,
demanded that his aunt hand Otto over
to them so that they could force him to
sell drugs. If she refused, the gang would
simply kidnap Otto and his aunt would
never see him again. That is what finally
sent him north.
“Carlos,” from El Salvador, had a
similar story. (El Salvador and Guatemala have the world’s highest homicide
rates among children and adolescents.) 2
A gang known as the 18th Street gang
threatened to kill him because although
he lived in territory controlled by
the MS- 13 gang, he went to school in
territory controlled by the 18th Street
gang. Putting him in a vice, the MS- 13
gang threatened to kill him because he
wouldn’t join their gang. To top it off,
the police harassed him and eventually beat him, accusing him of being
involved in illegal activities. At age
15, when kids here are thinking about
school dances and how to spend their
summers, Carlos made the trip north
hoping to find a place to live where his
life wouldn’t continually be threatened.
“Claudia” is an indigenous girl from
Guatemala. (Over 5,000 women have
been murdered in Guatemala since
2000 and only two percent of these
cases have resulted in convictions.) 3
Because she was indigenous she was
persecuted and taunted daily for
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GIVING HOPE WITH ONE HAND,
TAKING IT AWAY WITH THE OTHER by Sal Mungia