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A look into why migrants might be coming to the U.S.

Posted at 7:05 PM, Apr 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-09 11:18:14-04

More than 20,000 unaccompanied children are in U.S. Government custody, according to the latest release by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Homeland Security.

Data analyzed by ABC15 shows 2021 will most likely break a record for unaccompanied minors.

But what causes people to migrate or flee to the United States?

“We saw this in 2014, 2016, 2018, 2019 and now we’re seeing it again in 2021 and the reasons are always the same violence, poverty, impunity, corruption and now climate change,” stated Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy council at the American Immigration Council.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection data shows in March about 19,000 kids crossed the border alone.

A video released by CBP this week shows the moment a border patrol agent found an asylum-seeking child walking alone on a rural road near the Texas-Mexico border.

In the video, the child expresses he was traveling with a group but was abandoned. The 10-year-old boy seemed fearful as he asked the agent for help.

Immigrant advocates say we’ve seen this happen before and many of the children are looking to reunite with their parents who have been living in the U.S.

Univision network recently interviewed a child crossing the border alone at the border in Roma, Texas.

“It’s been my dream to see my mom. I haven't seen her since she left me as a baby. I left without telling my grandma, I just want to meet my mom,” said the young boy to Univision.

Reichlin-Melnick says the situation at the border is going to keep going forward until we address the root causes of migration.

“Until we find some way to shore up the region and ensure that people don’t have to leave their homes and come to the United States.”

To understand the root causes, we partnered with Univision News to present you some of the testimonies their reporting has gathered in Guatemala.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection data shows since 2014, most of the unaccompanied children encountered at the U.S.- Mexico border have been from Guatemala.

In a village in San Marcos, Guatemala, families say they’re tired of being poor and of eating tortillas with salt for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

“My daughters ask, ‘Mom why do we only have herbs? Why do we only eat with salt?'" said a woman to Univision.

She says going north to the U.S. is the only way to have a better life.

“It’s dangerous, but we have no other option even if we die trying,” said another woman in an interview with Univision.

People like her say they’ll take the risk and smugglers know this.

Univision spoke to two alleged smugglers.

“We tell them lies, that it is easy to cross, but we know it’s not,” said a man who identified himself as a “coyote” in Guatemala.

Another alleged human smuggler said, “there’s a lot of people now with the benefits the new president is offering.”

What these smugglers are not telling the migrants is that there’s a Trump policy called Title 42 that’s still in place. Under this policy all single adults and many families are being expelled or deported. The only people who are not being expelled are unaccompanied children.

“The more the media talks about open borders, the more governors and others talk about open borders the more that sends a message to people back home that the borders are open,” expressed Reichlin-Melnick.

So, what are we supposed to do?

“I think there’s always going to be people trying to come to America because of the opportunities this country has given us. I think that’s great as long as we respect the other people that're in line before us and we do the proper paperwork in order to get in here,” said Natalia Godoy.

Meanwhile, others believe the problem isn’t children coming, but how we’re treating them.

“The maximum amount of time you can hold children in there is 72 hours, but we don’t follow these things. Holding people in plastic cages is not any different than any type of bar that you’re thinking about,” expressed Isis Gil.

Governor Ducey has proposed sending the National Guard to the border, something Texas did recently as a solution.

But critics ask, is it working?

“It’s not this militia that is coming to America to invade us. What you’re talking about is people that are really desperate in need of help,” said Gil.

Central America has always dealt with high poverty levels, gang-related violence, and food insecurity. UNICEF says the pandemic worsened those conditions.

It's estimated about 3 million people including 1 million children are still in urgent need in that area.

To address the rising humanitarian needs in Central America, the U.S. has announced the deployment of the Disaster Assistance Response team to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.