LEAVE OR DIE: I Went to Central America to Find Out Why All Those Children Are Immigrating Alone
I wanted to find out for myself why these minors — mostly from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — are coming, so I set out to follow in the footsteps of the exodus. Mirna Couto, Martin Guzmán and Scott Monaghan, my production team for an Univision special titled “Entre el Abandono y el Rechazo” (Between Abandonment and Rejection), joined me as we traveled to the countries that drive migrants away. We also spent time on both sides of the border between McAllen, Tex., and Reynosa, Mexico. We covered more than 5,700 miles over eight days.
We spoke with presidents, human rights advocates, criminologists, “coyotes” and gang members. We listened to the stories of mothers who struggle to support their children; of young people who find no way to get ahead; and children who just want to see their parents, who left for the United States long ago in search of a better life.
In Guatemala, two-thirds of the population in rural areas lives on less than a dollar a day. But we found evidence of desperate poverty even in the capital. That’s where I met Esvin, a man who recycles garbage for a living (he declined to give his last name). He can make 100 quetzales, the equivalent of about $12, for a day’s work. Enough, he says, to feed his family. If he knew that his two teenage daughters could enter the United States and stay, he wouldn’t hesitate to send them.
In Honduras, which is considered the most dangerous country in the world, poverty combines with the underlying danger on the streets caused by conflicts between rival gangs and the increasing presence of drug cartels. Being young in Honduras is a risk. According to the National Violence Observatory, more than half of homicide victims in that Central American country are younger than 30. Young people in Honduras have two options: either leave or stay behind and face death.