Editor’s note: In 2010, just over 18,000 unaccompanied minors were detained by U.S. immigration authorities crossing the U.S-Mexico border. The number spiked to crisis levels in 2014, but then decreased. Now the numbers are rising again, with more than 72,000 unaccompanied children apprehended this year as of August. Lauren R. Aronson, an associate clinical professor of law and the director of the Immigration Law Clinic at the College of Law, spoke with News Bureau business and law editor Phil Ciciora about the rise in unaccompanied minors.
What accounts for the recent spike in unaccompanied minors trying to cross into the U.S.?
There are a handful of reasons such as poverty, natural disasters, the rise of gang recruitment, but the biggest is that the countries where the majority of unaccompanied minors are coming from – Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico – are dangerous. In terms of violence, their home countries are worse than Iraq. In fact, some estimate that Honduras has nine times as many homicides per capita as Iraq. Guatemala, the least violent of the four countries, is still at least twice as violent as Iraq.
So these unaccompanied minors – children, in other words – are effectively escaping war zones. The poverty is so immense, and the desperation level is so high that families are willing to take extraordinary risks to come or to send their children here.
Parents will take great risks to afford their children the chance, however small, to have not just a better future, but to have any future at all. That’s what many Americans fundamentally don’t understand about this issue. Mothers and fathers don’t send children on a dangerous journey on a whim. The fact that they send them is demonstrative of just how afraid parents are to let children remain in their home country.
Read the full interview at news.illinois.edu.