Join A Gang Or Be Killed: Central American Teenagers & Children Forced To Make Tough Decisions After Deportation
Child migrants from Central America flee their countries to seek greener pastures and to escape the violence currently plaguing their homelands. These efforts, however, become useless when they are caught by immigration officers in the United States and deport them back to their countries. Once they're back, teens and children often face two terrible choices: join a gang or be killed.
In Honduras, the gangs Mara 18 and Mara Salvatrucha have such immense power and influence that they have reached El Salvador and Guatemala, Newsweek reported. Those who flee Central America become targets of the gangs, which are also leaders in drug trafficking.
After they return, gangs force them to be obedient or else face torture or death. Evangelical Christians' plight is the worst. Once considered as off-limits, churchgoers are now being targeted by gangs because they fear that the church would weaken their power and influence.
Young people who have successfully reached the U.S. fear being deported to their homelands in Central America because they think the gangs would either kill, torture, or force them to join the groups. Children as young as six or seven are being recruited by drug gangs as lookouts, Miami Herald reported.
Seeking protection from the police wouldn't work either. According to Human Rights Watch, or HRW, Honduras' police force is filled with corruption, with impunity or exemption from punishment enjoyed by these enforcement officials.
Honduras' government also prevents local advocacy organizations from receiving Central American minors that are being deported. The Honduran government claims that they are protecting the identities of the deportees. In last year alone, more than 1,000 unaccompanied minors (400 of them from Honduras) were sent back to Central America, Newsweek noted.
Most times the danger reaches Central American teenagers and children even before they arrive in the U.S. Young migrants and refugees from Central America face extortion, kidnapping, sexual exploitation, and other violent crimes in the hands of drug cartels as they traverse the dangerous road to the U.S., according to Miami Herald.
Smugglers of these young migrants trick them by giving them false promises of safe routes and legal residence in the U.S. Little did they know that organized crime networks are waiting to exploit them.
The U.S. government has strengthened its borders as part of President Barack Obama's immigration crackdown, and even sought the help of Mexico to achieve this. Migrants, however, aren't deterred by this and are instead passing through southern Mexico, in areas that are less restricted but are more dangerous.