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The Surge of Unaccompanied Children from Central America

The Surge of Unaccompanied Children from Central America – Root Causes and Policy Solutions, bDan Restrepo and Ann Garcia | July 24, 2014

“Over the past few years, and in particular over the past few months, the number of children and families leaving the Central American countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras and arriving in neighboring countries and at our southern border has grown significantly. Already in fiscal year 2014, more than 57,000 children have arrived in the United States, double the number who made it to the U.S. southern border in FY 2013. The number of families arriving at the border, consisting mostly of mothers with infants and toddlers, has increased in similar proportions. In fiscal year 2013, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, or DHS, apprehended fewer than 10,000 families per year; yet, more than 55,000 families were apprehended in the first nine months of fiscal year 2014 alone. The majority of unaccompanied children and families who are arriving come from a region of Central America known as the “Northern Triangle,” where high rates of violence and homicide have prevailed in recent years and economic opportunity is increasingly hard to come by. Officials believe a total of at least 90,000 children will arrive on the U.S.-Mexico border by the end of this fiscal year in September. This brief aims to shed light on this complex situation by putting the numbers of people leaving the Northern Triangle into context; analyzing the broad host of drivers in Central America that have caused a significant uptick in children leaving their countries; and prescribing a series of foreign policy steps to facilitate management of this crisis and also to address the long-term root causes pushing these children to flee their home countries. This brief, however, does not delve into the needed domestic policy changes in the areas of immigration and refugee law.”

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