This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A New Influx of Unaccompanied Minors from Central America

Thanks to my son, Greg, for reminding me of the stories of a new influx of unaccompanied minors from Central America. This came to light a week or so ago, but got buried by other news. Indeed, last Wednesday, my PhD student, Elizabeth Kennedy, was quoted in a story on KPBS here in San Diego.
She has calculated the number is higher than any other nation not at war. She described the situation in Central America as dire. Much of the violence is attributed to the gangs; maras in Spanish.
As Greg points out, though, while violence is high and generally seems to be getting higher, it is not clear that this current wave of more than 10,000 unaccompanied minors being apprehended at the border is caused by a new wave of violence, as implied by a story in today's Washington Post:
But the violence that was a key factor in driving people to leave has surged again. El Salvador’s homicide rate, for example, is now at its highest since the country’s civil war ended in 1992, after a truce between two prominent gangs broke down last year. A drought across the region has also helped spur departures, but experts point to violence as the primary cause.
“These children are especially vulnerable. They are not fleeing because they can’t find a good-paying job. They are fleeing because of violence,” said Carmen Chavez, executive director of the Casa Cornelia Law Center in San Diego, which has provided legal services to more than 800 unaccompanied minors this year. “It’s a humanitarian crisis that has been building. It blew up last year, and the situation hasn’t changed.”
The New York Times adds a bit of geographic detail:
The young people are coming mostly from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, and several factors seem to be causing their rising numbers. The biggest increase recently is in young people from El Salvador, where violence by brutal international criminal gangs has proliferated. 
One of the things that has changed since last year is that new border enforcement by Mexico (aided by the US) has made it harder for migrants to get through Mexico to the US Border. So, the journey has become more difficult and expensive, playing right into the hands of people smugglers who are almost certainly in cahoots with the other criminals making life miserable in Central America.

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