Parents send children away to escape gangs in El Salvador
Parents in El Salvador, which has one of the highest homicide rates in the world, are facing a tough decision.
They must choose to either send their children away with strangers that will attempt to smuggle them into the United States, or risk them being murdered in their home country.
There is a misleading misconception that these children are in search of a wealthier lifestyle, and have been passed on by uncaring parents.
In reality, the parents are fearful of the dangerous environment their children are growing up in with gangs in El Salvador seemingly on every street corner.
The ruthless gangs in El Salvador rightfully have families concerned. Notoriously brutal gang MS-13 and rival gang Calle 18 (also known as Barrio 18), are taking over neighborhoods.
Even incarcerated MS-13 gang members are highly feared and run their own prison from the inside. The guards are too fearful to do anything but patrol the perimeter to make sure no-one escapes.
There is a homicide every hour in El Salvador, and more than 3,800 people have been murdered just this year. The country is now considered the homicide capital of the world.
Many school-aged children have been murdered, and others have vanished without a trace. The presence of violence and gangs in El Salvador is exactly why parents are desperate to get their children out.
Their perilous journey to cross the United States border typically takes them through Guatemala and Mexico, and then into one of four entry points into the United States.
They can easily avoid customs and migration officials at the El Salvador and Guatemala border by taking back roads. They then have to hike across hills to dodge officials at the Guatemala and Mexico border.
If they are able to bypass Mexican authorities who are clamping down on smugglers, the children then have another hike across the desert to reach their entry point across the United States border.
The children who fail to make it to the United States border undetected are turned away and sent back home.
More than 3,700 children have tried to flee just this year and were subsequently caught and returned to El Salvador. But many will keep trying in the hope of a safer life.
The children have noted violence, crime and gangs in El Salvador as their reason for wanting to leave.
One in three children have been threatened with death if they refused to join a gang, and many are prisoners in their own home; too scared to leave the house to even go to school.
Salvador Sánchez Cerén, President of El Salvador, has played down the impact that gang violence has on his nation. He claims the children are attempting to cross the United States to see family members, not to flee violence.
If there’s one way to solve this rampant issue, it’s certainly not to turn a blind eye.
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