Beginning in the summer of 2013, unusually high numbers of children, both on their own and with their mothers, crossed the southern border of the United States. The numbers increased again last fall, with some 21,500 family units apprehended at the U.S. border between October and December 2015 — almost three times as many as the same period the year before. While there has been much debate about the cause of this surge, pervasive violence in the countries of origin is a major factor. Refugees International has reported on the extreme violence and lack of protection that drives many such persons to risk this often dangerous and uncertain journey to the U.S
It is a Saturday evening in El Salvador, and my Refugees International colleague and I are riding in the back of a car with our heads on our knees. We are on our way to meet with a displaced family who are being hidden in a "safe house." We have been asked to stay undercover for the last five minutes of the approach – a security precaution to protect both ourselves and, more importantly, the family we are about to meet. It makes a profound impression upon us both as to the immediacy of the threat faced by those displaced by violence in this country.
In January 2015, El Salvador’s media reported live as almost 50 residents of an apartment building furiously packed up everything they could before fleeing. This was not an organized evacuation for an oncoming hurricane or some other natural disaster. It was a frantic movement of people who had been ordered to get out of their homes within 24 hours or be killed by the dominating gang in that area of Mejicanos, a municipality that runs alongside San Salvador. Their fear was not unfounded. Just 10 days before, the child of a pupusa vendor was killed outside the apartment building. In 2010, just six blocks away, a bus was set on fire with the passengers still inside. Seventeen people died.
Mexicanos y Salvadoreños siguen sufriendo ataques diarios contra los individuos, familias y comunidades a través de la extorsión, secuestros, violaciones y homicidios. Estos ataques son generalmente a manos de grupos y bandas criminales organizadas, pero a menudo, la policía y los militares están involucrados o específicamente orquestando eventos violentos. La inseguridad y la focalización de los ciudadanos de ambos países han causado desplazamiento interno masivo. Aunque el número verdadero de personas internamente desplazadas por el crimen organizado no es conocido, al menos 280,000 personas fueron desplazadas en cada país el año pasado.
Mexicans and Salvadorans continue to suffer from daily attacks on Individuals, Families, and Communities through extortion, kidnappings, rapes, and homicides. These attacks are faq frequently at the hands of organized criminal groups and gangs, but Too Often, the police and military are orchestrating Specifically Involved or violent events. The insecurity and targeting of the Citizens of Both Countries have led to mass internal displacement. While the actual number of people internally displaced by organized criminal groups is not known, Were At least 280,000 people displaced in each country just last year.
From the massive migration of an estimated 70,000 unaccompanied children to the U.S. border this past summer to President Barack Obama’s recent executive action on immigration reform, issues facing Central America have entered the national spotlight here in the US. The underlying internal displacement trends within Central America have not received as much attention, but are perhaps even more important as they reveal a frightening relationship between gang violence and forced migration within Central America.