Arizona’s Governor Jan Brewer cried foul when hundreds of unaccompanied children were dropped off at the bus station in Phoenix in June, bringing national attention to a growing illegal immigration issue.
According to numerous news reports, these children hailed primarily from Central America – Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. They, along with at least 47,000 other children since 2011, journeyed through Mexico, deluging Texas until the system was too strained to accommodate them. They are now being bussed to other states.
The children say their parents, guardians and local media encouraged them to flee gang and drug violence, along with hopeless poverty, by seeking refuge and a better life in the United States. Many hoped to be united with relatives already living illegally in the U.S..
People across the political spectrum agree that this is a bad situation. Not only are families being torn apart, but unaccompanied minors are undertaking a dangerous journey in which some have died and many, if not most, have been abused.
Food for the Hungry (FH) works in Central America, including Guatemala. FH also works in areas of the world where hundreds of thousands of refugees overwhelm other countries, only to end up living in squalid conditions. Children are the most vulnerable in these situations, facing everything from hunger and disease to violence and sex trafficking.
A better solution than prompting children to make such a horrific trip would be to encourage families to stay together in their communities, and inspire communities to work together to create a healthy and safe place for children to grow up and thrive.
“We are working to transform worldview in people and give different opportunities to improve the income in rural families,” said FH/Guatemala Country Director Julio Aramayo. These opportunities come in the form of education for children, skills training for parents and working with community leaders to provide access to clean water and healthcare.
When communities stand together to overcome poverty, there are fewer opportunities for children to fall prey to gangs and drug trafficking violence. When families stay together and commit to helping all children thrive, communities because more stable and prosperous.
You can help children avoid the need to risk their lives on a desperate journey by helping FH and other organizations to work with churches, leaders and families to improve conditions one Central American community at a time.