Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso has a new op-ed on those fleeing violence in Central America. He writes:
In the midst of the Syria crisis, however, we must not overlook the children fleeing violence in Central America, asking for help right here in our own backyards.
As I have witnessed with my own eyes, the safety of children and youth in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala is increasingly threatened by gangs and drug traffickers. The “join-or-die” policies of these nefarious actors make life nearly impossible for youth and their families in gang-controlled areas.
Facing the choice of either joining a gang or being married off to a gang member, or having a family member killed, it’s easy to understand why parents send their children north in search of safety. It’s a matter of life and death.
Corrupt or otherwise inadequate policing fails to protect them from gangs and other criminal networks. Pervasive violence and impunity, coupled with a lack of sufficient educational or job opportunities and social exclusion, drives these children out of their home countries.
Yet there is hope.
The U.S. government should continue to support efforts in the region to address root causes of forced migration, including efforts to interrupt the violence and provide those fleeing with safe spaces. Education and economic opportunity not only provide safe spaces, but also enable young people to thrive where they are….
As part of a comprehensive approach, the Obama administration should speed up and scale up efforts to provide international protection to the children and youth who are unable to remain in their home countries – through refugee status, asylum, or other legal mechanisms.
You can read the full article here.