In 2014, news reports were filled with stories of a surge of children making dangerous and arduous journeys from Central American countries through Mexico, on their way to cross into the United States illegally. Children from Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador have been fleeing their home countries in recent years, where "childhood has become synonymous with witnessing or suffering violence; experiencing human rights violations and discrimination on various grounds; suffering from social exclusion; and being deprived of education, employment opportunities, medical services, and even food." Many of these children come to the United States because they have parents or other family members here with whom they wish to be reunited.
Previous waves of immigrants to the United States escaping violence in their home countries, including Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia, and Bhutan, have been granted asylum. However, historically the United States has "systematically denied" Central American asylum claims based on violence in their home countries. In the wake of last year's flood of child migrants, President Obama and his administration were clear this historical trend would continue. In November of 2014, President Obama issued stern new enforcement priorities policies, with the top listed priority not as deporting criminal immigrants, but rather "cracking down" on illegal border crossing, and specifically citing the reduction in the numbers of children crossing in to the US as a success.
Despite this crackdown, studies show that significant numbers of children continue to leave Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. However, these children are not reaching the US, being reunited with family members, and filing applications for asylum. Rather, at the insistence of the US, Mexico has dramatically increased its enforcement efforts, deporting 77% of minors entering its borders from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. In contrast, the US deported 3% of minors in 2014.
How should the United States handle this wave of children seeking refuge and family reunification? Do we bear any responsibility to assist these children, either out of humanitarian concerns, or because our laws and drug consumption have helped create the situation these countries are in? Do these children deserve a chance at the American Dream?