GUATEMALA CITY, November 17 (Sputnik) – The majority of child immigrants heading from El Salvador to the United States are fleeing from violence, despite alternative claims from officials, academic field researcher Elizabeth Kennedy told Sputnik.
“My data show the majority of Salvadoran children I interviewed, 58 percent, list their fear of gang threats, insecurity and violence as their primary reason for leaving,” said Kennedy, an El Salvador-based researcher, who writes reports for the American Immigration Council and other watchdogs.
“Had it not been for this – a threat to join a gang or be killed, a beating, murders in their neighborhood, extortion demands – they would not have migrated. Some have tried to move within the country four or five times then decide they have to leave because there’s no safety there.”
The US saw an influx of some 70,000 unaccompanied child Central American migrants, travelling through Mexico and reaching its southern border over the summer. Many more were intercepted by Mexican officials and deported to their countries of origin.
“Officials like to talk about people having multiple reasons for migrating, and indeed people often have multiple reasons for migrating. But it’s become a catch phrase that obscures what’s happening on the ground here,” added Kennedy.
US President Barack Obama says he will use his executive power to push through changes to the US immigration system “before the end of the year”. This is expected to involve temporary deportation relief to some of the estimated 11.3 million immigrants, who live in the United States without papers.
The US spends $18 billion each year on drones, guard posts and other forms of border security, as well as funding Mexico and Central American states to halt the flows of migrants headed to the US looking for jobs and to join relatives.
Rights groups say many immigrants – including children – are fleeing from drug-gangs and other dangers and are deported without getting the chance to seek asylum. Other critics say that mass deportations cause emotional upheaval and family break-ups.