Child migration

Clip of map showing source locations and numbers for child immigrants to the United States. (DHS)

In the last few months, the number of unaccompanied child migrants coming to the U.S. from Central America has reached a crisis point. Since fiscal year 2011, the number of unaccompanied minors apprehended at the border has increased 142 percent, causing an uptick in the religious and humanitarian groups dealing with the issue.

The influx of child migrants actually began in 2011, and in March, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees released a report – based on interviews with unaccompanied or separated child migrants from Central America – that looks at the reasons children are leaving their homes. According to the report:

  • A need for protection was the primary reason most of the children had left their home countries. More than 58 percent of the children interviewed said they had either been forcibly displaced or had suffered in a way that indicated international protection was necessary. 
  • Economic issues, while important, were not the primary reasons children left their homes. Only 19 percent said they were seeking better education, and 25 percent said they were seeking a better future more broadly.
  • The majority of the children interviewed – 69 percent – could recall at least one specific incident of being beaten, robbed or threatened by gang members. Twenty-nine percent of the girls interviewed reported gang members had either raped them, inflicted some other type of sexual violence on them or had threatened them with sexual violence.

This map, produced by the Department of Homeland Security and first published by Adam Isaacson, a senior associate for regional security at the Washington Office on Latin America, shows where unaccompanied children are coming from in this latest migration surge.