Immigration reform is in the spotlight again because thousands of children are crossing into the U.S. at its southern border, but why are so many emigrating from their countries and by themselves? Bronx reporter Erin Clarke spoke with advocates from the countries many of these children are coming from and filed the following report.
The road traveled is long and treacherous. Some die along the way.
"If somebody is tired, somebody is slow, they leave them," said Joel Magallan, executive director of the Tepeyac Association of New York.
Yet, according to the Department of Homeland Security, this year, more than 57,000 children took this trip alone, the majority of them traveling through Mexico from some Central American countries.
"We have children coming from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador," Magallan said.
People from Honduras, Guatemala, Belize and Nicaragua are known as Garifuna, a cultural group of African descendants with their own language who originally settled in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, then emigrated to their native Central American countries. Two hundred thousand of them live in the city.
Outside of Central America, the largest group of people who identify as Garifuna live in the city, specifically the Bronx, so this issue hits home for them.
Jose Avila from the advocacy group Garifuna Coalition USA said his organization learned about the crisis months ago and added that the surge in youth coming to America isn't fueled by an increase in violence at home, as widely reported. Crime and poverty have long driven immigration.
"They talk about the gangs and so forth. That has always existed," Avila said.
What is new are criminals now spreading misinformation about Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, a U.S. policy that allowed some young people in America illegally to stay without fear of deportation. Children arriving now are not eligible.
"DACA is being used by, I'm going to call it out, human traffickers to promote it as a program that allows children to come to the United States of America and they will get their visa," Avila said.
That, coupled with desperation from parents already here to reunite with children while waiting for slow-moving immigration reform, is the real reason for the influx.