The rise in child migration is driven in large part by the desire to reunite with family, say observers. Like their Mexican counterparts, many Central American children have been left with aging grandparents or distant relatives, while their parents work in the
When a parent's economic situation stabilizes in the US, he or she will often contract a smuggler to bring the child, sometimes as young as 4 or 5, from
But most of the migrants, according to advocates, tend to be teenage boys who travel without the help of a smuggler. "It's a subculture phenomenon of youth," says Nestor Rodriguez, who codirects the Center for Immigration Research at the
That's exactly how Alfredio ended up in Mexico. At age 14 he is already working from to selling balloons on the central plaza here in Tapachula. He studied until sixth grade and knows how to read, but since he was 10 years old, he says, he has wanted to leave
"For me, this is more comfortable than working on the farm," he says.
Many kids do head straight to the
They often work as "little kangaroos," dubbed such because of the trays of the gum and candy they wear across their fronts. They also wash car windows in traffic, sell balloons, and do other odd jobs.
They have a 'love-hate' relationship with Mexican citizens. Rodolfo Casillas, an immigration expert at the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences in
Alfredio, for example, says he earns about $120 a month selling balloons, most of which goes to food and paying his share of the rent.
"But," adds Mr. Casillas, "they have also taken over the public space. And many feel they contribute to crime."
Migrants are more accepted now, say locals. But the perception that young migrants are making the region more violent lingers, says Carmen Fernandez, an immigration expert at the College of the Southern Border in Tapachula.
Of the migrants that the government agency Grupos Beta helps, local coordinator Francisco Aceves says that some 25 percent are children. Many are unruly. Some have escaped abusive situations, or been abused on their journeys. "There are things that come up with the minors that are very strong, very difficult," Mr. Aceves says. There is a shelter for unaccompanied minors caught in the region "but the boys that are 14 years old ... just escape."
But for Ms. Rodriguez, the human rights activist, the repatriation of children is not a viable solution. Whether children cross alone or are left by a smuggler, they often set out on the journey again. "We have to understand their reality," she says. "They work to survive. If you take that away, what can you offer? Because behind each 'little kangaroo' there is a little brother or a home he is supporting."
Working for logical immigation reform based on a stable population, a recognition of the finite nature of our natural resources and the adverse impact of continued growth on our quality of life, standard of living, national interest, character, language, sovereignty and the rule of law. Pushing back and countering the disloyal elements in American society and the anti-American rhetoric of the leftwing illegal alien lobbies. In a debate, when your opponents turn to name calling, it's a good sign you've already won.