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Border & Immigration

Hometowns Of Undocumented Central American Children Among World's Most Violent

Origin Of Central American Children Caught Crossing The Border Illegally
DHS report on the origin of unaccompanied alien children caught trying to cross the border between Jan. 1, 2014 and May 14, 2014.
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Many of the Central American children overwhelming authorities at the U.S. Southwest border left cities that rank among the world’s most violent, according to an internal government report.

The coastal Honduran city of San Pedro Sula was by far the most common origin of Central American children caught by Border Patrol while trying to sneak across the U.S. border over a 4½ month period; nearly three times as many children said they came from San Pedro Sula than from any other city in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

San Pedro Sula has the highest murder rate in the world — around four times higher than that of the most violent U.S. city, Detroit.


San Salvador and Guatemala City were also among the top 10 hometowns of children caught by the Border Patrol. The murder rates of both are among the top 30 highest in the world, according to data complied by a Mexico-based security think tank. (Guatemala City’s murder rate was the eighth highest in the world in 2013, with more than 2,000 murders among a population of 3.1 million.)

The figures on child migrants comes from an infographic produced by the Department of Homeland Security and made public by Adam Isacson, an analyst at the non-profit Washington Office on Latin America. The report is based on Border Patrol apprehensions of undocumented children from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador between Jan. 1 and May 14 of this year.

The second most common city of origin of children caught at the border was Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital and the sixth most murderous metropolis in the world.

The third most common hometown was Juticalpa, Honduras, the capital of a rural Honduran province that has become a major drug trafficking area in recent years.

U.S. border agents have taken more than 52,000 children into custody at the Southwest border since October 2013. The vast majority of the children caught trying to cross the border illegally are from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Mexico, and most of them have been caught in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.


The influx is straining federal resources at the border and forcing a reshuffling of staff in the federal government’s largest law enforcement agency, Customs and Border Protection. At the same time, the need to find housing for the children has sparked controversy in cities and towns across the country, including in Escondido, where the federal government failed in a bid to open a 96-bed temporary shelter for unaccompanied immigrant children.

Some Republican members of Congress are blaming the crisis on the Obama administration, saying its lax enforcement of immigration laws is giving Central Americans false hopes that they can stay in the U.S after crossing the border illegally.

But Central America experts point to a variety of factors causing the surge, including violence, poverty and the desire to reunite with family members in the U.S.

The leaked DHS report speculates on factors driving Central American children from different parts of the region.

The report states:

“We assess these reasons vary regionally. For example, many Guatemalan children come from rural areas, indicating they are probably seeking economic opportunities in the U.S. Salvadoran and Honduran children, on the other hand, come from extremely violent regions where they probably perceive the risk of traveling alone to the U.S. preferable to remaining at home.”

The report concludes that “the violence, combined with poor economies and other secondary factors will make stemming the flow of UACs to the U.S. a very complex issue to address.” (UAC is an acronym for Unaccompanied Alien Children, an official term.)