In the press / En la prensa



Somers, Maartje. 2014. Liever helse tocht naar VS dan leven met bendes. NRC Handelsbad 4 July 2014 <;.



  1. Saving Central America: The U.S. needs to extend a hand in a big way to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. Houston Chronicle 24 November.

Carasik, Lauren. 2015. Brutal Borders: Mexico’s Immigration Crackdown – And How the United States Funds It. Foreign Affairs 4 November <;.

Statistics are hard to come by, but an upcoming report by Elizabeth G. Kennedy, a Fulbright Fellow working on immigration issues, found that, since January 2014, at least 90 migrants deported by the United States and Mexico were subsequently murdered—which is likely only a fraction of the total. As Kennedy told the Guardian, “these figures tell us that the U.S. is returning people to their deaths in violation of national and international law.”

Lewis, Chris. 2015. One Story of Immigration through Mexico. Generation Progress 30 October <;.

According to social scientist Elizabeth Kennedy, quoted in the New York Times, at least 90 migrants deported from the United States or Mexico have been killed after returning to their home countries in under two years.

Hill, Selena. 2015. Central Americans Denied asylum in US Killed upon Return: Report. Latin Post 14 October <;.

In addition, an academic study identified up to 83 U.S. deportees who have been murdered on their return to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras since January 2014.

Elizabeth Kennedy, a social scientist at San Diego State University, has identified 45 cases of deportees who have been murdered on their return to El Salvador, while 35 died after being sent back to Honduras and three died when they were returned to Guatemala since January of last year.

“These figures tell us that the US is returning people to their deaths in violation of national and international law. Most of the individuals reported to have been murdered lived in some of the most violent towns in some of the most violent countries in the world — suggesting strongly that is why they fled,” she said.

2015. Some Migrants Deported to Central America Killed on Arrival, Investigation Finds. Latin America News Dispatch 13 October <;.

An upcoming academic study, based on an analysis of media reports, reportedly counted at least 83 cases of deportees killed upon returning, a number the New York Times noted is likely much higher.

In her upcoming report on the killings of returned migrants, social scientist Elizabeth Kennedy writes that such figures indicate the United States “is returning people to their deaths in violation of national and international law.”

Curtis, Kieron. 2015. US Government Deported up to 83 Migrants to Their Deaths Since 2014. UNILAD 13 October <;.

According to The Guardian an academic study will soon reveal up to 83 deported migrants were killed upon reaching their homelands.

The findings have led to criticisms of the US for not fulfilling its duty to assist refugees who are genuinely at risk.

The murders centred on the Central American nations of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, with some of the recorded deaths occurring just days after people being expelled from the US.

The report was compiled by Elizabeth Kennedy, a social scientist from San Diego state university, by analysing local news reports from the impoverished nations.

She said:

These figures tell us that the US is returning people to their deaths in violation of national and international law. Most of the individuals reported to have been murdered lived in some of the most violent towns in some of the most violent countries in the world – suggesting strongly that is why they fled.”

Shaw, Atanu. 2015. Migrant Deportation Sometimes Lead to Deaths. What Will Happen if Trump Triumphs on November? International Business Times AU Edition 13 October <;.

In a recent study conducted by Elizabeth Kennedy, a social scientist from San Diego State University, there is approximately 83 cases of death coming from three countries: El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. 

Tommy, Neon. 2015. The U.S. Government Is Deporting Central American Migrants to Their Deaths. Before It’s News 12 October <;.

Elizabeth Kennedy, a social scientist at San Diego state university, has compiled a comprehensive estimate of US deportees who have been murdered on their return to Central America since January 2014 based on local newspaper reports. Her forthcoming research identified 45 such cases in El Salvador, three in Guatemala and 35 in Honduras.

“These figures tell us that the US is returning people to their deaths in violation of national and international law. Most of the individuals reported to have been murdered lived in some of the most violent towns in some of the most violent countries in the world – suggesting strongly that is why they fled,” Kennedy said.

Collier, Lorna. 2015. Helping immigrant children heal. American Psychological Association 46(3): 58 <;.

The violence in these countries “impacts youth disproportionately,” says Elizabeth Kennedy, a former Fulbright fellow and doctoral student at San Diego State University and the University of California at Santa Barbara. Kennedy worked from November 2013 through September 2014 interviewing unaccompanied minors at a migrant return center in El Salvador.

The 700-plus children she’s spoken with have been deported from Mexico; almost all were trying to get to the United States and many said they will try again.

Why do these children risk the treacherous journey? Kennedy says the chief reason they give is fear of gangs, violence and insecurity. More than half (58 percent) of the 322 children she studied recently reported living in neighborhoods with a gang presence. A third attended schools with gangs inside. Kennedy says 109 children told her they had been directly threatened to join the gang or be killed, with 22 assaulted on multiple occasions.

As a result, 70 children quit school because they didn’t feel safe; 32 became prisoners in their own homes, staying in day and night out of fear. Four of those children suffered psychological breakdowns severe enough that their parents took them for emergency care and were told by emergency room doctors to get the child out of the country.

Caregivers tell Kennedy their children can’t sleep through the night, that they sometimes shake and tremble. But since so many other children have these symptoms, the caregivers think it is normal, she says.

In addition to fear of violence, the second most common reason children give for migrating is to be reunited with parents or other family members. More than 90 percent have a family member — usually a parent — in the United States already, says Kennedy.

The children know the dangers they face trying to get to the United States, she says. “They tell me, ‘I could be raped, I could be maimed, I could be kidnapped, I could be disappeared, I could be beaten,’ but the reality is those risks are lesser, they feel, than the ones they run if they stay.”

Katel, Peter. 2015. Central American Gangs. CQ Researcher 25(5): 97-120 <;.

Mirani, Katherine. 2014. Advocates urge more mental health services for unaccompanied immigrant children. Chicago Reporter 9 December 2014 <;.

“It’s important to realize the kids have endured trauma at three points: in their countries of origin, in transit and once they reach the U.S.,” said Elizabeth Kennedy, a social scientist and doctoral candidate at San Diego State University, who has interviewed hundreds of the children in El Salvador. “That compounding of trauma can be especially problematic.”

Kennedy spent 13 months in El Salvador interviewing more than 700 child immigrants. Her research, which was published by the American Immigration Council, showed that more than half of 322 Salvadoran children interviewed listed crime, gang threats or violence as a reason for leaving the country. In an article in JAMA Pediatrics last year, she wrote that “the high level of potential trauma before and during migration may lead to some of the highest levels of mental illness among children in the United States.”

Kennedy said the Office of Refugee Resettlement should solicit best practices from universities where researchers have been developing questionnaires specifically to screen for mental health issues in immigrants and refugees. Frankel said the Young Center brings in trauma experts, usually psychologists who have worked with immigrant children, as part of their advocate training.

“These (treatment) models do exist,” Kennedy said. “Trauma care has been adapted to be culturally sensitive for years now.”

Kennedy praised the work of Heartland Alliance, but said other facilities need to provide more counseling and follow-up services for children.

“There’s a misperception that kids don’t know the risk of the journey, that they’re just haphazardly making decisions, doing something for fun,” she said. “But kids know how dangerous it is for them to leave, and that’s perhaps the biggest sign of their desperation and what they’ve endured. When you acknowledge that and you also acknowledge how dangerous the journey is, it would be crazy to say that they don’t all have at least a short-term need for counseling.”’

Moloney, Anastasia. 2014. El Salvador gang violence, poverty fuel child migrant exodus to US. Thomson Reuters Foundation 21 November 2014 <;.

‘The findings echo research by Elizabeth Kennedy, a Fulbright researcher who interviewed 322 El Salvador children deported earlier this year.

The fear of gangs and violence was the most frequently cited reason for leaving at 58 percent, compared to 35 percent for family reunification and 27 percent for work, she said.’

Lakhani, Nina. 2014. Gang violence in El Salvador fuelling country’s child migration crisis. The Guardian 18 November 2014 <;.

‘But the dire security situation in El Salvador – 10 murders a day in 2014, gangs on every other corner, ghettoised neighbourhoods, a growing presence of international organised crime gangs, and high levels of intra-familial violence – means half the children sent back from Mexico plan to try again, according to Elizabeth Kennedy, a Fulbright researcher who has interviewed hundreds of child deportees this year.

“People in the US need to understand that desperate people take desperate measures, and while life at home remains miserable and dangerous, these children will keep trying,” she said.

But 60% of children interviewed by Kennedy gave violence, crime and gangs as a reason for leaving, compared with 35% who spoke of reunification.

“One in three children had been directly threatened with death if they didn’t join the gang. This persecution makes them eligible to apply for asylum. One in five had quit school out of fear, and one in 10 is a prisoner in their own home, too scared to go out day or night. Deporting children back into these harmful situations is a violation of international law,” said Kennedy.’

Ortega, Robert. 2014. Revisiting the immigration pipeline: Deported into danger. The Republic 13 November 2014 <;.

‘”No one is tracking it because they don’t want to know, because the results might be damning,” said Elizabeth G. Kennedy, a Fulbright scholar who has interviewed hundreds of minors returned to El Salvador as part of her child immigration studies. I’d be very surprised if at least one of the 700 children we’ve interviewed hasn’t been murdered.”‘

Vargas, Camilo. 2014. Coyotes: Ten Things to Remember About Smugglers Latino USA 12 September 2014

“9. According to a 2012 study by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, a majority of migrants report using the services of a smuggler. In the case of children migrants, Elizabeth Kennedy, a Fulbright scholar and researcher on child migration in El Salvador, estimates that more than half the children are smuggled using coyotes.”

Robbins, Seth. 2014. Home Again: Salvadoran migrants stopped in Mexico return to uncertain future. Latin Correspondent 5 September 2014

‘Still, most of the migrants being deported from Mexico will try again, says Elizabeth G. Kennedy, a Fulbright scholar working with returning children in El Salvador. Kennedy, who has interviewed more than 500 child migrants, says that about 60 percent of the children say gangs and threats of violence pushed them to leave.

“You are not going to stop someone who fears for their life every single day from migrating,” Kennedy says.’

Robbins, Seth. 2014. A failed journey: Central American migrants turned back before US border. The Christian Science Monitor 30 August 2014

“The route is dangerous,” says Elizabeth G. Kennedy, a Fulbright researcher studying child migrants in El Salvador. “But staying is sometimes equally or more dangerous.”

More than 60 percent of Salvadoran minors looking to reach the US say gangs and the threat of violence are what pushed them to leave, says Ms. Kennedy, who has interviewed some 500 returned child migrants.

In a repatriation center in San Salvador, where Kennedy has worked, many mothers and teens told the same story: They left after receiving threats from gangs. Some traveled alone, others with the aid of smugglers. Most had only a vague idea where they’d been.

Grillo, Ioan. 2014. Honduras’s Desperate Voyagers. Time 18 August 2014.

Lewis, Chris. 2014. Inside the Twisted Deportation Machine That Kicks Out Citizens of U.S.-Allied Nations. Alternet 14 August 2014

“Historically and currently, the United States does not recognize Central American asylum claims,” said Elizabeth Kennedy, a Fulbright scholar working with returned child migrants in El Salvador.

But such violence may not be a legal foundation for asylum in the United States. “Who is capable of persecution [under US asylum law]? Historically, that had to be a state actor or very powerful non-state actor with direct political purpose,” Kennedy said from El Salvador.

“The problem here is that the main persecutors are gangs, cartels, and other organized criminal actors,” she said.

In US asylum hearings, judges will typically try to make the case that Central American applicants are victims of random violence or targets of local criminal groups, and therefore don’t qualify for asylum based on US law, according to Kennedy.

An unsuccessful asylum petition can have deadly consequences. Kennedy, the Fulbright scholar based in El Salvador, said she encounters about one newspaper story each month in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras about a US deportee who has been murdered.

”It might be higher,” she said, since many families are reluctant to publicly acknowledge that a member of their family has been deported.

Perhaps a better model for US asylum policy, Kennedy says, is the 1984 Cartagena declaration, published in the midst of the Central American civil wars at a summit of migration experts from across the Americas. The declaration defines refugees more broadly and mandates a broader set of responsibilities toward them from receiving governments.

“The reality of refugee and asylum policy in our world today is that the poorest nations are receiving the majority of asylum seekers and refugees,” Kennedy said. “Wealthy nations have been very restrictive in who they admit and who they allow to get asylum, and that is a great injustice, because often times their policies are contributing to the things that create refugees.”

That’s the deeper solution to asylum problems, attacking forced migration at the source. In the Central American case, a principal culprit is the US drug war, according to Kennedy, which fuels violence in countries like Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico in order to meet US demand for recreational drugs.

“What would prevent people from producing drugs and working to supply them is going to be the same as what would prevent people from joining gangs and organized crime, and that’s genuine economic and social development,” Kennedy said.

“The United States does not have a good track record of investing in that.”

Steinhauer, Jennifer. 2014. Open to Both Sides, Homeland Security Chief Steps Into Immigration Divide. The New York Times 6 August 2014.

“I have worked on this topic since 2010,” said Elizabeth Kennedy, an advocate and researcher who has studied the issue of illegal child immigrants and has struggled to get statistics from the Obama administration. “This year they started actually promoting the numbers.”

O’Brien, Matt. 2014. Children, families fleeing Central America find refuge in the Bay Area. Inside Bay Area News 3 August 2014

After interviewing more than 500 children recently deported to El Salvador after they were caught by Mexican authorities, UC Santa Barbara and Fulbright scholar Elizabeth Kennedy said most reported violence as the chief reason for their flight. Family rumors that children can win asylum or special protection also motivate them to leave, but Kennedy said, “These parents and these family members would not send for their children if they were not desperate, if they did not think the children were unsafe. Something happens, and they just can’t stay any longer.”

Drug cartels broken up in Mexico have moved into Central America, causing violence that was once concentrated in capital cities to reach farther into rural and border areas, Kennedy said.

And unlike in the United States, where frightened residents can pack up and leave a dangerous neighborhood and move to another city or state, Kennedy said many Central Americans find it hard to escape to a safe place within their country’s borders. Gangs now permeate villages and nosy neighbors are wary of newcomers from another town, fearing that they, too, will bring more danger.

“These are traumatized societies. They’ve had years and years of high levels of violence,” Kennedy said. “We in the United States cannot comprehend what it is like.”

Rotondaro, Vinnie. 2014. Experts point to US role in migrants’ flight. Catholic Reporter 29 July 2014

“Another child migrant researcher, Fulbright scholar Elizabeth Kennedy, provided a snapshot of what children say is happening in El Salvador.

Out of 322 returned migrant children, Kennedy learned:

  • One hundred forty-five live in a neighborhood with a gang presence. About half of those live in contested gang territory, and are afraid to go more than three or four blocks away from their home. “They hear gunshots on a nightly basis. Many of them will eventually quit school or enclose themselves within their house.”
  • One hundred thirty go to a school that has a nearby gang presence, and 100 have a gang presence inside the school. “Sometimes the teachers or principals are involved in the gangs.”
  • One hundred nine have been threatened to join the gang or be killed, 22 have been beaten, 14 have had parents murdered by gangs, and 33 said they feel like prisoners in their own homes”.

Ortiz, Erik. 2014. American-Grown Gangs Fuel Immigration Crisis From Central America. NBC News 25 July 2014.

The lack of legitimate economic opportunities in the region and an average minimum wage of just $150 to $300 per month are keeping the gang lifestyle alive, said Fulbright Scholar Elizabeth Kennedy.

“Some of the jobs have disappeared because of free-trade agreements, and now you have even less work with lower wages,” Kennedy said in a phone interview from El Salvador, where she is researching immigrant children who have been sent back from the U.S.-Mexico border.

Goldberg, Michelle. 2014. Yes, Mr. President, the Border Kids are Refugees. The Nation 16 July 2014.

‘“The United States has chosen to fight a ‘war on drugs,’ which has consisted of trying to break apart large cartels,” says Elizabeth Kennedy, a Fulbright fellow in El Salvador who works with child migrants. “There’s evidence that in breaking apart the cartels, you actually increase the violence for people living in those communities.” With the demand for drugs still ravenous, smaller groups emerge to fill that demand, warring with each other and setting up in new countries. “When we fought the war on drugs in Colombia, the cartels moved into Mexico with greater force, and crop growth moved into Ecuador and Peru,” Kennedy says. “And now we’re seeing that they’re moving to the Caribbean and Central America.” In Honduras, the problem has been exacerbated by the 2009 right-wing military coup, which, as the International Crisis Group writes in a recent report, “weakened already fragile institutions of law enforcement and justice.”

In countries where the cartels are most active, children reaching adolescence face a choice between gang membership and death. Kennedy recently wrote a report for the Immigration Policy Center, “No Childhood Here: Why Central American Children Are Fleeing Their Homes,” which notes that 59 percent of Salvadoran boys and 61 percent of Salvadoran girls list crime or violence as a reason they decided to make the perilous trip north.

Despite the right’s canard that kids are fleeing to the United States because they think Obama has promised them amnesty, Kennedy says that only one of the more than 400 kids she has interviewed knew anything about the Dream Act or the president’s 2012 executive order halting deportation of some young immigrants. …

Greater border enforcement is not going to stop desperate parents from trying to get their kids out of imminent danger. Migrants know they’re likely to be deported, and many reach the United States only after multiple failed attempts. “Many children say, ‘It’s a sure death if I stay, and it’s a possible death if I go,’” says Kennedy.’

Mechanic, Michael. 2014. Here’s How You Can Help Unaccompaneid Border Kids Without Giving to Glenn Beck. Mother Jones 14 July 2014.

Altman, Anna. 2014. Obama’s Humanitarian Immigration Crisis. The New York Times 11 July 2014

Elizabeth Kennedy, a Fulbright fellow living in El Salvador, recently published research that addressed why so many children are fleeing their homes. She interviewed hundreds of Salvadoran children (and their parents, when they were available) who were caught crossing the border into Mexico on their way to the U.S. and were sent back to El Salvador. Kennedy reports that violence is taking hold throughout the country—in rural as well as urban areas—and that, “over and over again, I have heard that ‘there is no childhood here,’ and that ‘it is a crime to be young in El Salvador today.’“ Of the 322 minors she interviewed, “145 have at least one gang in their neighborhood, and about half of these live in a contested gang territory. They report hearing gunshots nightly and are often afraid to walk even two or three blocks from their home since they fear crossing an always changing boundary.” The children she spoke with felt like “prisoners in their own homes”: “Most minimize their time on the streets, saying they go only to and from school, work, or church.”

Most children try to leave the country at the urging of family members who fear they cannot protect them. Even then, the reasons vary. Kennedy reports on several cases: “One father said he never wanted to be away from his son, but after a string of murders in their town, he worried all the time. He felt he was being selfish to keep him here longer, especially since his mother in the U.S. has been asking for him for nearly a decade.” Mothers had other reasons: “Two single mothers shared that gangs were forcibly using their homes as passageways to escape from one neighborhood to another and to stash drugs. They believed they were targeted because no adult males lived with them.” For children whose parents have already left, “grandparents feel they are too old to fend off gang threats for their grandchildren.”

As they reach adolescence, Salvadoran children feel they are at greater risk to be caught in gang violence and are, at the same time, better equipped to weather the journey to the United States. Importantly, Kennedy found, “the U.S. is not always the first option” for children seeking a safer place to live. “Many move within El Salvador, and there are whole neighborhoods that have been abandoned.” 90% of the children who sought to go to the U.S. had family there, but only 35% said they wanted to emigrate to reunite with family. For children with family in Costa Rica, Belize, or another country, they will go there instead.

Gonzalez, Daniel and Ortega, Bob. 2014. Pipeline of children: A border crisis. The Arizona Republic 10 July 2014.

Siegal McIntyre, Erin. 2014. Not All Kids Are Equal: Central American Kids Get Court Dates, Mexicans Get the Boot. Fusion 10 July 2014. .

The majority of Central American and Mexican kids flee their native countries for the same reasons, says Elizabeth G. Kennedy, a Fulbright researcher working with child migrants in El Salvador as part of a doctoral dissertation on unaccompanied youth.

“They are afraid of forced gang or cartel recruitment and high levels of crime and violence targeted at young people,” Kennedy says. “At the same time, many live in extreme poverty and hope to obtain a better life for themselves and their loved ones through study and hard work.”

Lee, Brianna. 2014. Are Central American Children Crossing US Border Refugees or Economic Migrants? International Business Time 10 July 2014.

As far as rumors of U.S. leniency, Elizabeth Kennedy, a Fulbright scholar based in El Salvador who has conducted more than 300 interviews with child migrants and their families, said that information about U.S. policies toward child migrants was largely unknown in Central America until after President Obama spoke publicly about the situation in early June.

“The rumors did not start until Obama called it an urgent humanitarian situation,” she said. “In over 300 interviews, only one asked about DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals]. Otherwise, no one ever named any specific U.S. legislation. Some asked if children should lie about their age and say they were over 18.”

Rogers, David. 2014. Obama requests $3.7 billion for child migrants. Politico 8 July 2014

The safety of the returning children — who would be more visible and therefore targets for gangs — is a concern for persons who have studied the situation on the ground.

“Among the many who fled to the U.S. because they feared for their lives, returning them quickly could result in their death or the death of their family and friends,” said Elizabeth Kennedy, a Fulbright scholar who has been researching the crisis from the streets and bus stations of El Salvador. “Every month, at least one of the many homicides is a recent deportee from the U.S. in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Thus, we cannot afford to be wrong, because that blood would be on our hands. We must take all procedural steps necessary to ensure a fair and individual trial with legal representation for children in this position.”

Keeping, Juliana. 2014. Oklahoma town divided on influx of immigrant kids to Army base. Al Jazeera America 7 July 2014

‘Fulbright scholar Elizabeth Kennedy, who lives in San Salvador, El Salvador, has researched the experiences of Central American migrants, focusing on unaccompanied children, since 2011. She said sending the kids back to where they came from is neither responsible nor humane.

“These are not people we can consider less than human,” she said. “In fact, they’re desperate, and they want a chance to survive past childhood and adolescence.”

Kennedy has interviewed 400 unaccompanied minors from El Salvador. She said about 60 percent of the children cited fear for their life as a reason for illegally crossing the U.S. border.

In May, El Salvador, a nation of just 6 million, had more than 400 murders — part of a surge in violence in the region. Drug activity in Mexico has splintered, moving into Central America and the Caribbean. Rival gangs MS-13 and the 18th Street Gang are behind most cartel activity in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, Kennedy said.

Some of the children she interviewed said their parents were murdered by cartel affiliates. Others, who quit school for fear of violence, gave reports of school directors and teachers who recruited for the gangs. Nearly a quarter said they had been given an ultimatum: Join a gang or be killed.

The children had very little knowledge of U.S. immigration policy. She bristled at the popular demand that unaccompanied minors in U.S. custody be quickly deported, pointing to regular news reports from El Salvador of recent deportees being murdered.

“When the first child is killed, that blood will be on our hands,” she said.

Berestein Rojas, Leslie. 2014. For desperate parents of Central American child migrants, a false rumor and false hope. KPCC 89.3 3 July 2014.

Not all parents are aware of the “permiso” rumor. Elizabeth Kennedy, a Fulbright scholar and postdoctoral candidate, has been studying child migrants in El Salvador, interviewing youths deported to El Salvador from Mexico and their families. Out of more than 400 families she interviewed before the beginning of June, she said, only 16 mentioned the possibility of special treatment for minor children.

As for families aware of recent federal policies like Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, criticized by some Republicans as adding fuel to the rumor mill, Kennedy said there was only one she encountered. She said that ironically, she’s come across more families talking about a “permiso” and special treatment for minors since President Obama addressed the issue as a humanitarian crisis in early June.

“Are family members, coyotes, guias, saying that children might have an easier route once they arrive in the US? Probably they are,” Kennedy said by phone. “But at the end of the day, they would not agree for their children to go on these incredible, dangerous journeys that they themselves took – they know what their children are risking, the children know what they are risking – they would not take them if they were not incredibly desperate.”

Yu Hsi-Lee, Esther. 2014. Why Kids Are Crossing the Desert Alone to Get to America. Think Progress 2 July 2014

Elizabeth Kennedy, a Fulbright researcher based in El Salvador, said that assault, disappearance, extortion, and rape are at all-time highs, while homicide rates are “higher today” than during the civil war. …

Gang violence. Kennedy found that 60 percent of 322 child respondents she interviewed are fleeing gangs (also known as maras). “Of the 322 minors I interviewed, 145 have at least one gang in their neighborhood, and about half of these live in a contested gang territory,” she wrote in an American Immigration Council report released Tuesday.

Mejia, Ivan. 2014. Most Central American Children Flee from Threats and Violence, Study Says. Efe 27 June 2014. [Picked up by Yahoo!Noticias, Univision, Global Post, El Diario de Hoy, Caracol Colombia, La Republica Peru, La Prensa San Antonio, Union Tribune, 24 Horas, infobae,, Terra, La Prensa Honduras, TeleProgreso Honduras, Diario de Yucatan, El Nuevo Diario, Centinela Digital, Etorno Inteligente, and others].

Lind, Dara. 2014. Immigration reformers’ favorite spin on the child migrant crisis is dead wrong. Vox 27 June 2014

According to Elizabeth G. Kennedy, a Fulbright scholar researching child migrants in El Salvador, most migrants and their families don’t know very much about the system at all. When asked whether any of the migrants she interviewed were thinking about possibilities for future reform in the US, Kennedy answered flatly, “No.”

El Salvador, for its part, only started paying attention to the child migrant crisis a few weeks ago, when President Obama declared the issue a “humanitarian crisis” — and Kennedy suspects that was only big news because the Salvadoran government worried it had implications for their relations with the United States. Before that, she says, “there was very little knowledge — even in the highest echelons of Salvadoran society — about the system for child migrants in the United States.”

“People who have to migrate through Mexico are not the elite — at all,” Kennedy says. “So their knowledge of immigration reform is very limited.” The families she works with at the migrant return center started asking her about the system for children in the US after the Salvadoran media covered President Obama’s comments —  but none of them had asked her about it before.

Overall, Kennedy says, fifteen of the 400-plus migrant children she’s interviewed knew that the system was somehow different for children in the US than for adults. But some of them thought it was harder to enter the US as a child — and thought they were supposed to lie about their age.

The coyotes smuggling migrants through Mexico and into the US might be responsible for spreading some of this information and misinformation, but it’s impossible to know for sure. “I actually imagine that the information changes along the route,” Kennedy says. “I wouldn’t put it past smuggling networks to let children know, ‘Hey, you can present yourself to Customs and Border Protection officers’ once they get to the US-Mexico border. They are not telling them ahead of time.” On the other hand, the families she’s talked to don’t trust anything coyotes tell them about the United States anyway.

This means that it might be hard for Congress to send a message to countries like El Salvador by simply enacting immigration reform (or by stepping up enforcement).

It’s hard to change the main law benefiting Central American migrants

Kennedy, like other Central American experts, thinks the main factor driving children and families to the United States is their fear of staying in their home countries. “This is not people seeking out a better life for themselves,” she says. “This is not people trying to game a system. This is people trying to survive.”

As it happens, there are international laws that require countries to take in people in that situation — people who are running for their lives but don’t necessarily have legal paperwork. That’s why the asylum system exists. And Central Americans have been leaving their home countries to seek asylum elsewhere in North America, including Mexico and Nicaragua, for the last few years.

Sixty percent of Kennedy’s interviewees said that they were fleeing El Salvador because of fear of organized crime, gang threats, or violence. That’s consistent with other reports estimating that at least half of the current child migrants in the US would be eligible for some sort of humanitarian relief.

Ortega, Bob. 2014. Media in Central America to migrants: don’t go to the U.S. USA Today 21 June 2014

“I don’t see any evidence to back up that argument,” said Elizabeth Kennedy, a Fulbright scholar who has conducted more than 400 interviews in El Salvador in her research on child migration.

“That’s not what’s causing people to go,” she said. “The primary cause for children leaving is because they don’t feel safe here.”

Throughout El Salvador, from youths in gang-infested neighborhoods to people in official positions, there has been a lack of knowledge about the details of how the U.S. immigration system functions, Kennedy said. But she said that out of all the interviewees, only one child brought up immigration reform or the possibility of being eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows some kids brought to the U.S. illegally to delay deportation.

Yu Hsi-Lee, Esther. 2014. No, Obama Didn’t Create the Migrant Children Crisis. Think Progress 20 June 2014

Another survey by Elizabeth Kennedy, a doctoral candidate at San Diego State University found that “in only one of 400-plus interviews did a child migrant ask about the DREAM Act and immigration reform. …Fifteen had heard that the U.S. system treated children differently than adults and wanted to know how. In all 15 cases, the child had received a threat to join the gang or be killed, and some had then been beat or raped when they refused to join.”


Scherer, Michael and Rhodan, Maya. 2014. Children at the Border: An exodus from Central America tests the U.S. Time 19 June 2014.

But that message may not matter, given the ample evidence that gaining citizenship is far less of a concern for many of the boys and girls than simply finding safety. For years, those three countries have been consumed by increasing violence by organized gangs, which have grown in power on the back of the drug trade as economic conditions worsen. Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández, whose country has the world’s highest murder rate, recently described the fleeing youth as “displaced by war.” Tales of kidnapping, murder and extortion fill the local newspapers daily. “I talk to the children, and they say they can trust no one,” says Elizabeth Kennedy, an American academic who is researching the children leaving El Salvador. “There is just no country anymore.”’

Riordan Seville, Lisa and Rappleye, Hannah. 2014. Border Children Tell Their Stories: Why We Came to the US. NBC News 17 June 2014 <;.

“I’ve had parents, and even some of the children tell me, ‘There is no childhood here,’” said Elizabeth Kennedy, a Fulbright scholar who is currently researching the causes of child migration in Central America. “There’s not any calculated attempt to game the system. There’s just one last attempt to survive, and try to have some quality of life.”

Ortega, Bob. 2014. 5 answers: Why the surge in migrant children at border? The Republic 10 June 2014 <;.

Gang violence in El Salvador and in urban areas of Guatemala has escalated dramatically in recent months since a weak truce among rival gangs has evaporated, said Elizabeth G. Kennedy, a Fulbright scholar reached Monday in San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador.

“Half of them are fleeing for their lives,” she said.

Kennedy, investigating the causes of child migration, has interviewed more than 400 child migrants. For many, Kennedy said, “their decision is: Do I face possible death in migrating or sure death in staying?”

Ortega, Bob. 2014. 5 respuestas: ¿Por qué el aumento de los niños migrantes en la frontera? La República 10 de Junio 2014 <;.

La violencia de pandillas en El Salvador y en zonas urbanas de Guatemala ha aumentado dramáticamente en los últimos meses, desde que una débil tregua entre bandas rivales se evaporó, dijo Elizabeth G. Kennedy, una becaria Fulbright contactada el lunes en San Salvador, capital de El Salvador.

“La mitad de ellos están huyendo por sus vidas”, dijo.

Kennedy, investigando las causas de la migración infantil, ha entrevistado a más de 400 niños y niñas migrantes. Para muchos, dijo Kennedy, “su decisión es: ¿Me enfrento a una posible muerte en la migración o la muerte segura al quedarse?”

Robles, Frances. 2014. Wave of Minors on Their Own Rush to Cross Southwest Border. New York Times A1 4 June 2014 <;_r=0&gt;.

Elizabeth Kennedy, a Fulbright scholar who is studying Salvadoran youth migration, said 60 percent of the 326 students she had interviewed cited gangs and crime as the reason they were leaving.

“A large number are forcibly recruited by gangs,” Ms. Kennedy said. “Most kids lived in areas that are controlled by one or both of the gangs.”

Robles, Frances. 2014. Ola de menores cruzando la Frontera Suroeste por su propia cuenta. New York Times A1 4 de Junio de 2014 <;_r=0&gt;.

Elizabeth Kennedy, una becaria Fulbright, quien está estudiando la migración juvenil salvadoreña, dijo que el 60 por ciento de los 326 estudiantes que había entrevistado se refirió a las pandillas y al crimen como la razón por la cual se iban.

 “Un gran número son reclutados a la fuerza por las pandillas”, dijo Kennedy. “La mayoría de los niños vivió en zonas controladas  por una o ambas de las pandillas.”

Rogers, David. 2014. Flood of child migrants a neglected challenge. Politico 29 May 2014 <>.

Elizabeth Kennedy, a doctoral candidate at San Diego State University, paints a different picture.

She has studied the crisis from both sides of the U.S. border, including a stint now as a Fulbright fellow in El Salvador. All the Salvadoran children must cross Mexico at some point to get to the U.S. — and many are intercepted and turned back by Mexican authorities. Kennedy has collected over 400 interviews by going to the migrant return center and talking with waiting family members and their children once they arrive.

“Most of the children I meet at the bus return center will try again, and some will reach the United States,” she said. “I’m in contact with 20 who have done so since I got here in October. I’m sure others have arrived and have elected not to stay in contact with me.”

“Over 90 percent of child migrants here have a family member in the U.S,” Kennedy said. “Despite these numbers, less than a third mention family reunification as a reason for emigrating. More often than not, their neighborhood has become so dangerous or they have been so seriously threatened, that to stay is to wait for their own death or great harm to their family. Their neighborhoods are full of gangs. Their schools are full of gangs. They do not want to join for moral and political reasons and thus see no future.”

“In only one of 400-plus interviews did a child migrant ask about the DREAM Act and immigration reform. … Fifteen had heard that the U.S. system treated children differently than adults and wanted to know how. In all 15 cases, the child had received a threat to join the gang or be killed, and some had then been beat or raped when they refused to join.”

“Thus, there is only limited knowledge of the way the U.S. system works for children. U.S. legislation is not driving this emigration. A humanitarian crisis is. We need to accept that when large amounts of people leave a country, this is indicative of untenable problems in that country. … Until the root causes are addressed, it’s going to continue.”

‘The reality is that violence — homicide, rape, kidnapping, extortion, disappearance — is at near an all-time high,” Kennedy said of her time in El Salvador. “And it has a disproportionate impact on young people.”

Rogers, David. 2014. Diluvio de niños migrantes, un reto descuidado. Politico 29 de Mayo de 2014 <;.

Elizabeth Kennedy, candidata doctoral en la Universidad Estatal de San Diego, pinta un cuadro diferente.

Ella ha estudiado la crisis desde ambos lados de la frontera de EE.UU., incluyendo ahora una estancia como becaria Fulbright en El Salvador. Todos los niños salvadoreños deben cruzar México en algún momento para llegar a los EE.UU. — y muchos son interceptados y retornados por las autoridades mexicanas. Kennedy ha realizado más de 400 entrevistas yendo al centro de retorno de migrantes y hablando con los familiares en espera y con sus niños retornados, una vez que llegan.

“La mayoría de los niños que me encuentro en el centro de retorno por autobús, lo intentarán de nuevo, y algunos llegarán a Estados Unidos”, dijo. “Estoy en contacto con 20 que lo han logrado desde que llegué aquí, en octubre. Estoy segura de que otros han llegado y han optado por no estar en contacto conmigo”.

“Más del 90 por ciento de los niños y niñas migrantes aquí tienen un miembro de la familia en los EE.UU.”, dijo Kennedy. “A pesar de estos números, menos de un tercio mencionó reunificación familiar como la razón para emigrar. Más a menudo, sus barrios se han vuelto tan peligrosos o han sido seriamente amenazados, que quedarse es esperar la propia muerte o un gran daño para sus familias. Sus barrios están llenos de pandillas. Sus escuelas están llenas de pandillas. Ellos no quieren unirse a estas, por razones morales y políticas y, por lo tanto no ven un futuro”.

“En sólo una de las más de 400 entrevistas realizadas, un niño migrante preguntó sobre el DREAM Act y la reforma migratoria. … Quince habían oído que el sistema de los EE.UU. trataba a los niños de manera diferente que a los adultos y querían saber cómo. En los 15 casos, el niño había recibido una amenaza para unirse a la pandilla o ser asesinado, y algunos, luego habían sido golpeados o violados por haberse negado a unirse. ”

“Por lo tanto, sólo hay un conocimiento limitado de la forma en que el sistema de los EE.UU. trabaja para los niños. La legislación de EE.UU. no está conduciendo esta emigración. Es una crisis humanitaria. Tenemos que aceptar que cuando grandes cantidades de personas dejan un país, es un indicativo de problemas insostenibles en ese país. … Mientras no se aborden las causas profundas, esto va a continuar”.

“La realidad es que la violencia – el homicidio, la violación, el secuestro, la extorsión, la desaparición – están en su máximo en la historia”, dijo Kennedy de su tiempo en El Salvador. “Y tienen un impacto desproporcionado en los jóvenes.”

Hennessey-Fiske, M. 2014. More youths crossing U.S.-Mexico border alone. Los Angeles Times 21 February 2014. <;.

Elizabeth Kennedy, a researcher at San Diego State University who works with migrant youths and their families in El Salvador, said many youths have already tried to flee worsening gang violence at home, switching schools and cities and seeking help from police and other government agencies. Increasingly powerful gangs find them, however, and act with impunity, she said.

Parents tell her they must weigh the risks of sending a child north against the violence at home. “They know it’s a dangerous journey, but they also don’t want their child to die or not get an education,” Kennedy said. …

Kennedy, the San Diego State researcher, has stayed in touch with several immigrant youths placed with family and sponsors. Two were unable to find English as a second language high school classes, dropped out of school and went to work. Another moved from her guardian’s home to stay with her mother, a gang member.

“More follow-up would be good,” Kennedy said. “Not just to ensure they’re in a good setting, but to ensure they’re getting services.”

Hennessey-Fiske, M. 2014. Más jóvenes cruzando solos la frontera México-EE.UU. Los Angeles Times 21 de Febrero de 2014. <;.

Elizabeth Kennedy, una investigadora de la Universidad Estatal de San Diego, que trabaja con jóvenes migrantes y sus familias en El Salvador, dijo que muchos jóvenes ya han intentado huir del empeoramiento de la violencia de pandillas en sus comunidades, cambiar de escuelas y ciudades y buscar ayuda de la policía y otras agencias gubernamentales. Las pandillas, cada vez más poderosas, los encuentran de cualquier manera y actúan con impunidad, dijo.

Los padres le dicen que tienen que sopesar los riesgos de enviar a un niño al norte, contra la violencia en sus comunidades. “Ellos saben que es un viaje peligroso, pero también no quieren que su hijo muera o no reciba educación”, dijo Kennedy. …

Kennedy, la investigadora del Estado de San Diego, se ha mantenido en contacto con varios jóvenes inmigrantes ubicados con sus familias ó  patrocinadores. Dos de ellos fueron incapaces de encontrar una escuela secundaria con inglés como segunda lengua, así que abandonaron los estudios y comenzaron a trabajar. Otra se mudó de su tutor para estar con su madre, miembro de una pandilla.

“Más seguimiento sería bueno”, dijo Kennedy. “No sólo para asegurarse de que están en un buen ambiente, sino,  para asegurarse de que también obtendrán servicios.”

Gordon, Ian. 2013. Why Are More and More Children Walking Across the Border? Mother Jones 23 December 2013. <;.

“What’s alarming is that there’s an increasing number saying they’re fleeing forcible gang recruitment and gang violence,” says Elizabeth Kennedy, a San Diego State University researcher who studies unaccompanied child migrants. “They were being forcibly recruited into the gangs and didn’t want to be a part of it, and so they had to flee because threats had been made on them or their family members.”

Gordon, Ian. 2013. ¿Porqué hay más y más niños caminando a través de la frontera? Mother Jones 23 de Diciembre de 2013. <;.

“Lo que es alarmante es que hay un número cada vez mayor que dicen que están huyendo del reclutamiento forzado y la violencia de las pandillas”, dice Elizabeth Kennedy, una investigadora de la Universidad Estatal de San Diego, que estudia el caso de los niños migrantes no acompañados. “Ellos estaban siendo reclutados por la fuerza a las pandillas y no querían ser parte de ellas, por lo que tuvieron que huir por las amenazas que fueron realizadas a ellos o a sus familias”. 


Greene Sterling, Tina. 2013. Undocumented Kids Crossing the U.S. Border Alone in Increasing Numbers. Newsweek The Daily Beast 23 March 2013. <;.

A little under half, about 10,500 young border crossers, came from Mexico in 2012. Most Mexican kids are quickly repatriated, says Elizabeth G. Kennedy, a researcher and social scientist at San Diego State University. But the remainder, almost 14,000 unaccompanied minors in 2012 alone, are children predominantly from increasingly violent Central American countries.

The journey north is harrowing, says Kennedy, who recently published an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association detailing the fragile mental states of young border crossers. On the trains and trails, some are raped, drugged, maimed, and robbed, she says. The lucky ones arrive in planes and then are nabbed by border authorities at the airport.

Greene Sterling, Tina. 2013. Aumento del número de niños indocumentados cruzando solos la frontera de EE.UU. Newsweek The Daily Beast 23 de Marzo del 2013 <;.

Un poco menos de la mitad, unos 10.500 jóvenes que cruzan la frontera, vinieron de México en 2012. La mayoría de los niños mexicanos son repatriados rápidamente, dice Elizabeth G. Kennedy, investigadora y científica social de la Universidad Estatal de San Diego. Pero el resto, casi 14.000 menores no acompañados, sólo en 2012, son niños, mayormente, de países cada vez más violentos de América Central.

El viaje hacia el norte es terrible, dice Kennedy, quien publicó recientemente un artículo en el Journal of the American Medical Association, detallando los frágiles estados mentales de  jóvenes que cruzan la frontera. En los trenes y caminos, algunos son violados, drogados, mutilados, y asaltados, dice ella. Los más afortunados llegan en aviones y luego son detenidos por las autoridades fronterizas en el aeropuerto.

UCSB Public Affairs. 2013. UCSB Demographer Champions Health Care for Unaccompanied Migrant Children. Santa Barbara Independent 11 February 2013. <;, also published by, the Golden Door Coalition,,, and; see video interview here:

Asúntos Públicos de UCSB Public Affairs. 2013. UCSB Campeones del demógrafo de Salud para menores migrantes no acompañados. Santa Barbara Independent 11 de febrero de 2013 <;, también publicado por, la Golden Door Coalition,,, y; mira el video de la entrevista aquí:

Rogers, David. 2012. Child-migrant problem on rise. Politico 28 September 2012. <;.

A doctoral student at San Diego State University, Elizabeth Kennedy, both volunteers in shelters caring for the children and is researching the phenomenon of unaccompanied child migrants as part of her dissertation.

“You can’t separate this migration from the violence associated with the U.S. drug policy,” she told POLITICO. “This is a U.S. driven problem and we can’t escape being culpable for it.”

“These are very resilient people to have come so far alone,” she says. “If we invest in them, it could pay big dividends.”

Rogers, David. 2012. Problema de niños migrantes en aumento. Politico 28 de Septiembre de  2012. <;.

Una estudiante de doctorado en la Universidad Estatal de San Diego, Elizabeth Kennedy, realiza voluntariado en centros de refugio donde cuidan a los niños y, además, está investigando el fenómeno de los niños migrantes no acompañados, como parte de su tesis.

No puedes separar  esta migración de la violencia asociada con la política de drogas de EE.UU.”, dijo a POLITICO. “Este es un problema impulsado por EE.UU. y no podemos escapar de ser culpable por ello.”

“Estas son personas muy resistentes por haber llegado tan lejos solas”, dice ella. “Si invertimos en ellos, podría pagar grandes dividendos.”

Preston, Julia. 2012. Young and Alone, Facing Court and Deportation. A1. New York Times 25 August 2012. <;.

“The children at home feel unloved, they feel empty,” said Elizabeth G. Kennedy, a researcher at San Diego State University who studies child migrants. “If parents know their child is feeling empty and is in danger, they will make a decision.”

Preston, Julia. 2012. Joven y solo, afrontando la Corte y la deportación. A1. New York Times 25 de Agosto de 2012 <;.

Los niños en casase ​​sientenno queridos, se sienten vacíos“, dijo ElizabethG.Kennedy, unainvestigadora de la UniversidadEstatal de SanDiego, que estudia el caso de los niños migrantes. “Si los padressaben que sushijosse sientenvacíos yse encuentran en peligro, tomarán una decisión.


Français/French (I do not speak French)

Grimm, Claude. 2014. Le Salvador face a un exode de ses enfants. Le Courrier 16 September 2014

«La raison principale pour migrer est la violence»

La chercheuse américaine de l’université d’Etat de San Diego Elizabeth Kennedy, spécialiste des questions migratoires, révèle dans une étude que 60% des mineurs qui décident de quitter le Salvador le font à cause de la violence. Des résultats qui contredisent la position du gouvernement, pour qui l’insécurité n’est pas à l’origine de l’augmentation récente du flux d’enfants migrants non accompagnés. Interview.

Quelles sont les raisons qui poussent les jeunes à migrer aux Etats-Unis?
Elizabeth Kennedy: Dans notre étude portant sur 500 entretiens avec des migrants mineurs rapatriés, dont 322 ont été analysés, la raison principale donnée par 60% des jeunes est la violence dans leurs communautés et les menaces – effectives ou non – des maras (lire encadré ci-dessus).
La deuxième raison est la réunification familiale, avec 35%. Pourtant, 90% ont au moins un de leurs parents aux Etats-Unis. Les adolescents souhaiteraient rester dans leur communauté, mais il y a eu un événement déclencheur: menaces directes, homicide dans leur quartier, demande d’extorsion dans leur famille, etc.
Trente et un pour cent des sondés veulent étudier et 27% chercher du travail. Trois pour cent disent vouloir fuir des abus intrafamiliaux, mais les entretiens ayant été réalisés en présence de la famille, ce chiffre est en réalité plus élevé. Enfin, 3% veulent vivre une aventure.

Pourquoi y a-t-il une différence entre vos chiffres et ceux des autorités?
Selon moi, la raison est que les migrants ne font pas confiance aux fonctionnaires en charge de la migration, même si par ailleurs ils font un excellent travail. De nombreuses mères rapatriées m’ont confié avoir peur de retourner dans leur communauté mais ne pas l’avoir dit lors de l’entretien avec les autorités. Mes chiffres sont en accord avec ceux de plusieurs autres études, dont celle de l’Agence des Nations Unies pour les réfugiés, qui estime que 72% des mineurs migrent à cause de la violence.

Comment la population aux Etats-Unis réagit-elle face à cette vague de migrants mineurs?
Une enquête parue à fin juillet révèle que 70% de la population les considère comme des réfugiés. Il s’agit d’un réel progrès. De nombreux mouvements, dont les églises et les ONG, appuient les migrants. Mais une minorité très argentée, et très écoutée, soutient financièrement les partis qui veulent renforcer la frontière, bien qu’elle ne puisse guère l’être davantage.

Pourquoi, selon vous, Obama est-il le président qui a le plus expulsé de migrants?
Je ne comprends pas son attitude. Mais je crois qu’il a voulu faire un pas en direction des Républicains dans l’espoir de négocier avec eux, évidemment sans succès. Résultat: le nombre de morts a augmenté dans nos déserts et montagnes et notre gouvernement en porte l’entière responsabilité.
Sa réforme migratoire est au point mort, mais il devrait prendre quelques mesures, dont un plan devant bénéficier à 5 millions de sans-papiers sur les 11 millions que comptent les Etats-Unis.

Comment expliquez-vous la violence en Amérique centrale?
La violence et la migration qui en découle trouvent leurs racines dans le manque d’opportunités économiques, sociales et éducatives. Dans les deux cas, les réponses policières et militaires ne peuvent pas fonctionner. Il faut aborder le problème de manière globale.
Aucun gouvernement ne porte seul la responsabilité de cette longue histoire de violence, mais le gouvernement américain doit assumer sa part pour son attitude pendant la guerre civile, l’expulsion des maras, pourtant nées aux Etats-Unis, et l’imposition d’un traité de libre-échange qui a augmenté la pauvreté dans les pays du Triangle Nord alors qu’elle a diminué ailleurs en Amérique latine.
Les Etats-Unis déboursent beaucoup d’argent pour renforcer les frontières et lutter contre la drogue. Le démantèlement des cartels en Colombie puis au Mexique n’a fait que déplacer le problème en Amérique centrale et aux Caraïbes. PROPOS RECUEILLIS PAR CGM

Menaces directes et indirectes

Sur 322 entretiens d’enfants et adolescents, 109 ont reçu des menaces directes d’assassinat ou pour intégrer une mara (gang). Parmi ceux-ci, 22 ont été victimes d’agressions après avoir refusé d’obtempérer et 14 autres ont vu au moins un de leurs parents assassinés. Tous ces cas sont éligibles pour demander l’asile.

Cent quarante-cinq jeunes vivent dans des lieux où il y a un ou plusieurs gangs de rue. Ils ont peur de sortir dans la rue et entendent des fusillades au moins trois fois par semaine.

Cent trente enfants étudient dans une école avec une mara à proximité et 100 autres dans un collège où elle se trouve à l’intérieur, y amenant armes et drogue. Ces adolescents estiment qu’il vaut mieux migrer avant d’avoir des problèmes.



Cancino, Jorge. 2016. Indocumentados: “No tenemos papeles pero respetamos las leyes.” Univision 4 January  <;.

Reforma migratoria

Las noticias sobre operativos de ICE se riegan por todo el país. “Desafortunadamente las redadas llegaron”, dijo a Univision Noticias Elizabeth Kennedy, profesora e investigadora de la Universidad Estatal de San Diego y de la Universidad de California en Santa Bárbara, California. “Supuestamente los agentes de ICE solo van a llegar a casas y no a fabricas y campos” como ocurrió hasta la Administración republicana del presidente George W. Bush.

En 2013 Kennedy advirtió la oleada de niños y adultos centroamericanos que puso en aprietos a la Administración Obama en el 2014. Ese año la Patrulla Fronteriza detuvo a 68,541 niños migrantes en un sector de la frontera suroeste con México. En el 2015 la cifra bajó en un 42% pero en los primeros dos meses del año fiscal 2016 (octubre y noviembre de 2015) autoridades federales arrestaron a poco más de 10,000, cifra que inquieta a la Casa Blanca.

Kennedy dijo que el país necesita con urgencia una reforma migratoria “humana y moderna” y advirtió que las redadas y deportaciones “para mandar un mensaje preventivo de que las fronteras no están abiertas para los indocumentados es absurdo. De hecho, en la esfera de política humanitaria y la política migratoria es ilegal”.

Crisis humanitaria

Agregó que el DHS se empeña en negar un aumento de migrantes en la frontera y se empeña en no permitir “que guatemaltecos, hondureños y salvadoreños que huyen de sus países, los más violentos del mundo y con altos niveles de corrupción, impunidad y falta de protección, vengan en busca de asilo”.

“Las personas de esos países deciden irse porque no pueden quedarse”, y reiteró que “lamentablemente algunos deportados son asesinados. El problema es que el DHS piensa en la seguridad de la frontera sin pensar en la seguridad humana de quienes huyen para buscar refugio”.

La investigadora recordó que durante las guerras civiles que afectaron en Centroamérica en los 70 y los 80, el gobierno de Washington quiso enviar el mensaje de que las fronteras no estaban abiertas “y decidió negar la mayoría de los casos de asilo de guatemaltecos y salvadoreños”.

“En el caso American Baptist Churches v. Thornburgh (1991), la corte declaró que fue ilegal el mandar un mensaje político y negar protección internacional a estas personas que lo merecían”, indicó.

Kennedy preguntó si “hoy, al igual que ayer, la política exterior de Estados Unidos en la región del Triángulo del Norte tiene algo que ver con la oleada migratoria que sigue aumentando. Hay una crisis humanitaria en Centroamérica”.

Cancino, Jorge. 2015. Ola de niños migrantes a EEUU no ha parado desde 2013. Univision18 December <;.

“No existe una nueva oleada migratoria en la frontera. Los números de guatemaltecos, hondureños y salvadoreños que están huyendo de sus países han sido altos y siguen siendo altos”, dijo a Univision Noticias Elizabeth Kennedy, profesora e investigadora de la Universidad Estatal de San Diego y de la Universidad de California en Santa Bárbara, California.

En 2013 Kennedy anticipó la oleada de niños migrantes solos desde Centroamérica y México hacia Estados Unidos. Las advertencias, sin embargo, no fueron atendidas.

Dos años después reitera que las causas que generaron el flujo han “empeorado”, y que el problema se ha convertido en una “crisis humanitaria” sin precedentes.

Agregó que “casi el 70% de las mujeres intentaron encontrar protección en sus países antes de huir hacia Estados Unidos”, uno de los cruces más peligrosos en el que arriesgan sus vidas y nada garantiza que serán admitidos si son arrestados por las autoridades federales de inmigración.

Respuesta equivocada

Kennedy dijo que, de acuerdo con las investigaciones que se llevan a cabo, “el 10% (de las migrantes) denuncia que sufrieron abusos (durante el trayecto hacia Estados Unidos) cometidos por agentes del estado (policías y militares)”, y que tanto los gobiernos de México como el de Washington “deben comenzar a verlo como una crisis humanitaria de refugiados y no seguir respondiendo al problema como si se tratara de una crisis de seguridad”.

“Hasta que no exista una respuesta humanitaria la ola va a seguir, no se detendrá”, apuntó.

El récord de 2014

Kennedy dijo que si bien las cifras con alarmantes, “no sobrepasan los registros de junio de 2014, cuando los agentes de la Patrulla Fronteriza arrestaron a más de 10,000 niños no acompañados”.

La Casa Blanca dijo que, a pesar de las cifras, el gobierno reitera que la situación permanece “bajo control”.

A comienzos de abril Kennedy dijo que la crisis en la frontera “no existió” y sostuvo que “hubo divisiones” entre los funcionarios de los departamentos de Seguridad Nacional (DHS, por su sigla en inglés) y de Salud y de Recursos Humanos (HHS), y también de funcionarios de la Casa Blanca sobre el tratamiento que le dieron al tema el año pasado.

Añadió que las causas que veneraron el problema “están en los países donde viven los niños y las familias” que emigran hacia Estados Unidos, y que los migrantes (niños y adultos) “huyen por las mismas razones: la inseguridad y la violencia, que incluye abuso doméstico, pobreza extrema y reunificación familiar”.

Por qué huyen

Entre 2013 y 2014 Kennedy, junto con investigadores de las universidades Estatal de San Diego y de California realizaron más de 400 entrevistas a migrantes de El Salvador que querían llegar a Estados Unidos. “Se analizó los primeros 322 casos, y entre ellos el 60.1% dijo que huía por el miedo que tienen del crimen, las amenazas de las maras y la violencia”.

Agregó que 35% de los migrantes iban en busca de sus familias y que “ese número dice mucho, porque más del 90% tienen familiares en Estados Unidos, y de ellos más del 50% tienen su mamá, su papá o los dos padres allá”.

Cancino, Jorge. 2015. Ningun niño centroamericano ha ingresado a EEUU bajo programa de refugiados. Univision 5 November <;.

“La gente, los adultos y las familias siguen huyendo por las mismas razones: la inseguridad y la violencia que incluye el abuso doméstico, la pobreza extrema y la reunificación familiar”, dijo a Univision Noticias la investigadora Elizabeth Kennedy, profesora de la Universidad Estatal de San Diego y de la Universidad de California en Santa Bárbara.

Cancino, Jorge. 2015. Migrantes detenidos en frontera con Mexico piensan que pueden quedarse en EEUU. Univision 30 October <;.

“La gente, los adultos y las familias siguen huyendo por las mismas razones: la inseguridad y la violencia que incluye el abuso doméstico, la pobreza extrema y la reunificación familiar”, dijo a Univision Noticias la investigadora Elizabeth Kennedy, profesora de la Universidad Estatal de San Diego y de la Universidad de 2008California en Santa Bárbara.

Cancino, Jorge. 2015. Un ano después de la crisis, miles de niños inmigrantes siguen atrapados en el limbo. Univision 17 July <;.

“La gente, los adultos y las familias, siguen huyendo por las mismas razones: la inseguridad y la violencia que incluye el abuso doméstico, la pobreza extrema y la reunificación familiar”, dijo a Univision Noticias la investigadora Elizabeth Kennedy, profesora de la Universidad Estatal de San Diego y de la Universidad de California en Santa Bárbara.

Hasta tres intentos

¿Y los que han asido deportados? Kennedy dice que muchos “están regresando”, que la mayoría “lo intentan de nuevo y lo intentarán otra vez. Hay varias razones: familia, han pagado mucho por tres chances, la violencia, el miedo y los altos índices de desempleo. Por eso persisten”.

Kennedy advierte que las condiciones de vida en Guatemala, El Salvador y Honduras no son las mismas que el año pasado, “han empeorado” y que esa situación “genera un mayor flujo de migrantes” hacia Estados Unidos.

Citó la corrupción que se vive en Guatemala donde altos funcionarios de gobierno, entre ellos la vicepresidenta Roxana Baldetti, fueron obligados a renunciar o despedidos, y la sociedad civil está pidiendo la salida del poder del presidente Otro Pérez Molina.

“También hay protestas en Honduras contra el presidente Juan Orlando Hernández por su involucramiento en escándalos de corrupción. Al mismo tiempo, los homicidios de niños, de niñas, adolescentes y mujeres han aumentado en Honduras aunque la cifra de homicidios totales disminuyó”, agregó.

Pero la situación en El Salvador se agravó dramáticamente. “Hace un año había entre 10 y 14 homicidios por día. En mayo de este año se registraron un promedio de 20 homicidios por día, el mismo número que en los años inmediatos al término de la guerra civil). Y en lo que va de junio hay un promedio de 22 homicidios”, dijo Kennedy.

“La policía ha declarado una guerra contra los pandilleros, y en respuesta, los mareros han declarado una guerra contra la policía. Es una situación muy grave sin soluciones inmediatas. Todo ello empuja la migración hacia Estados Unidos”, indicó.

  1. 35 hondurenos deportados han vuelto al país solo a que los maten. La Tribuna 16 October <;.

Un estudio académico de la Universidad Estatal de San Diego (California), basado en informes de prensa locales, identifica a un máximo de 83 inmigrantes deportados de Estados Unidos que han sido asesinados desde enero de 2014 pocos días o meses después de su regreso a América Central.

De estos, 45 casos corresponden a El Salvador, tres a Guatemala y 35 a Honduras.

“Estas cifras (los 83 deportados y posteriormente asesinados) nos dicen que Estados Unidos está expulsando a la gente a su muerte, en violación de la legislación nacional e internacional”.

“La mayoría de las personas vivían en algunas de las ciudades más violentas de algunos de los países más violentos del mundo, lo que a su vez es un indicador del por qué huyeron”, dijo Elizabeth Kennedy, científica social de la Universidad Estatal de San Diego y autora de la compilación de casos.

Valencia Caravantes, Daniel and Alvarado, Jimmy. 2014. La region de los que huyen. El Faro 17 August 2014

5. Elizabeth teme por los niños

Elizabeth Kennedy es una investigadora originaria de San Diego, California, que se especializó en migración forzada porque desde joven le gustó trabajar en albergues en aquella ciudad, que daban refugio a niños migrantes mexicanos y centroamericanos. Años más tarde, cuando sacó su maestría, en Inglaterra, compartía el tiempo de sus estudios trabajando como voluntaria en un refugio para niños migrantes afganos. Niños que habían huido de la guerra en su propio país. De regreso en San Diego, mientras preparaba su doctorado, hace seis años, Elizabeth sospechó que algo muy grave ocurría con los niños de Guatemala, El Salvador y Honduras que ella atendía. Elizabeth enseñaba escritura creativa, danza latina; dirigía un club de libros y de arte. Cuando compartió de cerca con esos niños fue cuando supo que algo andaba muy mal.

—A veces conversaba con niños y adolescentes sobre por qué salían de sus países. Muchas veces me escribieron que tenían miedo de quedarse. Tenían miedo de las maras, del crimen organizado, de los carteles. En escritura creativa escribimos sobre nuestras vidas. Entonces muchas veces me escribieron sobre violencia entre pandillas, y sobre cómo es ser perseguido. Algunos habían tenido padres que habían sido asesinados, madres matadas, hermanos matados, entonces, cuando yo llegué aquí a El Salvador sabía que algunos sí tenían miedo y se sienten perseguidos, tienen miedo de salir a la calle, y cosas así.

De lo que le contaron esos niños, Elizabeth recogió insumos para escribir un ensayo para la universidad de Oxford que tituló “Refugiados de las pandillas centroamericanas”. Elizabeth es una académica que ha estudiado de cerca la migración infantil desde 2010. Decidió residir en El Salvador un año como parte de su programa de doctorado para estudiar el fenómeno. Su interés radica en que ella presenció cómo en los últimos tres años cada vez más niños del triángulo norte de Centroamérica continuaban llegando a Estados Unidos. Armó maletas y se radicó en El Salvador para tratar de entender el fenómeno. Un fenómeno que hace dos meses acaparó las noticias internacionales, luego de que se filtraran fotografías de los albergues que retienen a los menores migrantes en Estados Unidos, y de que el presidente Barack Obama reconociera que tenían una tragedia humanitaria con los más de 50 mil niños migrantes que cruzaron la frontera y fueron detenidos sin compañía de adultos.

A la fecha, Elizabeth Kennedy ha entrevistado a más de 500 menores migrantes de El Salvador. Ha sistematizado las respuestas de 322 menores, y encontró que el 60.1 % respondieron que el principal motivo por el que se habían ido del país es la violencia.

Ella hace un resumen:

—145 viven en barrios con maras. La mitad de ellos vive en zonas rojas, con las dos maras en esa zona. 130 van a la escuela a lugares donde hay una presencia de maras cerca, en parques, calles o esperando en la calle a horas de entrada y salida. 100 de ellos tiene presencia de maras dentro de las escuelas. 109 recibieron amenazas de meterse (a las maras) o morirse. 70 han dejado de ir a la escuela por miedo. 33 tienen miedo de salir a la calle. Ya no van a la iglesia por el miedo. 14 tienen padres que fueron asesinados por las maras.

—En esas 500 entrevistas, ¿ha identificado algún patrón de persecución? ¿O similitudes?

—Las amenazas empiezan cuando están saliendo de la escuela o en el barrio. Si viven en una zona roja, cuando cruzan una frontera que está en control de otra pandilla. Si son testigos de algún asesinato empiezan a tener problemas. Es una cosa familiar. Si una niña rechaza el pedido de ser novia de un marero toda la familia está afectada. Si ella tiene un hermano de 13 años, este tiene la presión de involucrarse en la mara por la falta de su hermana. Es consistente entre las familias. No afecta solo al adolescente, sino a toda la familia.

—¿Qué pasa con los jóvenes que han hecho denuncias?

—Solo 16 han hecho denuncias. 200 de los 322 no quieren hacerla. Dicen cosas como esto: “la Policía y los mareros son lo mismo”, “hay fuentes de información dentro de la Fiscalía y la Policía”, “si hago denuncia, ellos van a saber”, “los mareros dicen que si denuncian, nos van a matar”, “uno no sabe quién es quién”, “las paredes tienen oídos”. No quieren hacer denuncias, porque piensan que los problemas van a empezar después de hacer una denuncia.

En El Salvador no existen indicadores que describan el impacto que tiene la violencia en la migración infantil. Ni en Guatemala. Ni en Honduras. Recientemente, hay un dato que sí ha dejado asombrados a otros norteamericanos, y que incluso fue avalado a finales de julio por el presidente hondureño, Juan Orlando Hernández. A raíz de la preocupación por el incremento de la migración infantil hacia Estados Unidos. El Departamento de Seguridad Interna de los Estados Unidos reveló que el 70 % de los niños migrantes que ingresaron a suelo estadounidense provienen de los 30 municipios más violentos de Centroamérica. La lista la lidera Honduras, con San Pedro Sula, la ciudad más violenta del mundo a la cabeza. El Salvador y Guatemala no se quedan atrás, y sus dos ciudades capitales también aparecen en esa lista.

Torres, Eduardo. 2014. Por ofrecerles futuro. El Diario de Hoy 28 July 2014 <;.

Poco difiere el informe de ACNUR con los resultados preliminares de otro estudio de la investigadora estadounidense Elizabeth G. Kennedy, quien posee una maestría en Estudios sobre Migraciones Forzadas y Refugiados de la Universidad de Oxford.

Tras analizar 322 entrevistas de las más de 500 que realizó a menores repatriados desde México, Kennedy encontró que el 90 % quería llegar a los Estados Unidos y que, de poder hacerlo, más de la mitad lo intentaría de nuevo. Los menores entrevistados por Kennedy proceden de todo el país aunque la mayoría son de San Salvador, San Miguel, Santa Ana y Usulután. Los menores dieron más de una respuesta, pero el 59.7 % señaló “amenazas, inseguridad y violencia” como principal motivo para emigrar, aunque ello les cueste la vida. El 35 % reunificación familiar; 31.6 % el deseo de seguir estudiando; 27.2 % la pobreza y búsqueda de empleo, y el 3.1 % el abuso dentro del hogar.

Martinez, Lilian. 2014. El 60 % de los ninos migra por violencia, según estudio. El Diario de Hoy 27 July 2014 <;.

¿Por qué huyen los niños de El Salvador? Esa es la pregunta que intentaba responder la investigadora estadounidense Elizabeth G. Kennedy al entrevistar a más de 500 menores de edad repatriados desde México.

Tras analizar 322 entrevistas (106 a niñas y 216 a niños), puede decir que el 90 % quería llegar a Estados Unidos y más de la mitad quiere intentarlo otra vez.

Los menores proceden de todos los departamentos del país, pero la mayoría son de San Salvador, San Miguel, Santa Ana y Usulután. Y aunque todos tienen más de una razón para irse, el 59.7 % habla de “amenazas, inseguridad y violencia” como el principal motivo para decidir emigrar, aunque ello les pueda costar la vida.

Solo el 35 % menciona la reunificación familiar; otro 31.6 % el deseo de seguir estudiando; el 27.2 % la pobreza y búsqueda de empleo; el 3.1 % el abuso dentro del hogar; y el 3.1 % por “aventura”.

Pero el Gobierno tiene otra visión de este problema. El 21 de julio, el viceministro de Justicia y Seguridad Pública, Juan Javier Martínez, descartó que la inseguridad y la violencia sean la causa del aumento en el flujo de niños que migran sin sus padres hacia EE. UU.

En palabras del funcionario: “Solo el 40 % de los niños deportados desde México viven en municipios altamente violentos”. Con base en ese dato, cree que afirmar que la violencia ha provocado el creciente éxodo es un error.

Kennedy, quien obtuvo su maestría en Estudios sobre Migraciones Forzadas y Refugiados en la Universidad de Oxford, piensa diferente: “Tener un alto índice de violencia no es toda la historia de lo que está pasando en un municipio, porque he conocido a niños, niñas y adolescentes de muchos municipios, de todos los departamentos, de áreas rurales y urbanas”.

La investigadora afirmó que como hay miedo de hacer denuncias, “algunas cosas no están reportadas”. Recordó que se han encontrado muchas tumbas clandestinas en el país. Eso la hace afirmar que “a veces uno no sabe que está pasando por varios años”.

“Esa es mi primera crítica, que los números, las cifras no dicen toda la historia. Lo segundo es ¿qué significa un municipio con alto índice de violencia? ¿qué es un municipio con menos índice de violencia? Es la misma pregunta: si hay violencia ¿hasta qué nivel tiene que ser para no sentirse seguro?”, agregó.

Ella considera que nadie puede determinar en qué aspectos los niños y los adolescentes van a sentirse seguros o no: “Yo hablo con ellos y, es verdad, a veces ellos me responden que su comunidad es bien sana; pero siempre después sigue con ‘todavía’ o ‘gracias a Dios’, y el sentimiento es que en cualquier momento pueden llegar las pandillas y las maras u otro grupo de crimen organizado”.

El Diario de Hoy la cuestiona: “Entonces, ¿no todos los que se están yendo lo hacen porque vivan en lugares donde sea evidente la inseguridad?”.

Kennedy responde: “Como expliqué en la presentación, es verdad que algunos se sienten (piensan) ‘mejor me voy antes de tener problemas’, que es un tipo de pensamiento muy inteligente de verdad. Están pensando en un futuro y todo eso”.

La investigadora afirma que el fenómeno es multicausal, pero algunas causas se repiten más que otras. Al preguntarle ¿cuál es la que más se repite?, Kennedy reitera: “La violencia y la reunificación familiar, pero como expliqué… solo el 35 % dan esa razón para su migración. Aunque más del 90 % tiene familiares en los Estados Unidos”.

También es un problema de salud mental

En abril de 2013, la revista JAMA, de la American Medical Association, publicó la investigación de Kennedy: “Sufrimiento innecesario. Las posibles necesidades insatisfechas en materia de Salud Mental de los menores extranjeros no acompañados”.

Los primeros párrafos de este documento dan cuenta de cómo el fenómeno de los niños que llegaron a Estados Unidos sin papeles, sin padres y sin un tutor y que fueron detenidos es algo que ocurre desde 2004. Desde entonces hasta 2012, 70 mil niños habían llegado en esas condiciones. Solo en el año fiscal 2012, llegaron 14 mil 500.

Según la misma investigación, el 97 % de los niños extranjeros no acompañados (UAC por sus siglas en inglés) provenían de El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras y México, entonces ya eran descritos como “países con dramáticos incrementos de violencia, sistemática corrupción estatal y pobreza”.

Kennedy consignó en su investigación que la migración de niños sin papeles provoca “niveles significativos de trauma”. El viaje los lleva a atravesar territorios y rutas controladas por cárteles de la droga “que golpean, ahogan, mutilan, asesinan, roban, abusan y matan de hambre a los migrantes indocumentados (…). Del mismo modo, los coyotes (guías) pueden ofrecer drogas a los UAC o alcohol para contener su hambre o proponerles trabajos forzados o sexo a cambio de la supervivencia”.

“En conjunto, el alto nivel de trauma potencial antes y durante la migración puede llevar a algunos de los más altos niveles de enfermedad mental entre los niños en los Estados Unidos”, añade Kennedy en dicho documento.

A inicios de julio, representantes locales de Visión Mundial señalaban la necesidad de dar seguimiento a cada niño repatriado. Marla González de Martínez, directora de la división de políticas públicas de dicha ONG, afirmó: Estos niños tienen que ser atendidos y se les debe facilitar un proceso de reacomodo en sus realidades. Porque están viviendo situaciones que no logran comprender”.

La mayoría de menores salvadoreños detenidos tras intentar ingresar a Estados Unidos sin papeles todavía espera presentarse ante un juez. El Instituto Salvadoreño del Migrante (Insami) considera que si el Estado salvadoreño reconociera que la violencia y la inseguridad forzaron a estos niños a a irse, estos tendrían una gran posibilidad de pedir y obtener refugio. El futuro que les espera aquí, de ser deportados, no es prometedor. Aunque no vivan en los municipios “más violentos”, Kennedy los ha escuchado decir: “Me voy, antes de que me pase algo”.

Martinez, Lilian. 2014. 60 percent of children emigrate because of violence, according to a study.  El Diario de Hoy 27 July 2014.

Anonymous. 2014. Creen que oleada de jovenes inmigrantes es por violencia de pandillas. El Diario de Hoy 25 July 2014 <;.

La mayoría de los menores que emigra sin acompañamiento desde Centroamérica a EE. UU. lo hace por miedo a ser víctimas de la violencia que azota la región, según un estudio de la investigadora Elizabeth Kennedy.

“Los menores y los padres de familia piensan que el riesgo de los niños en la ruta hacia EE. UU. no es tan grande como el riesgo de quedarse en su país, porque sienten que quedarse es para morir”, dijo Kennedy a Efe .

“En mi investigación inicial con menores salvadoreños he encontrado que de 400 entrevistados, de los que he hecho análisis de 322, el 60 % declaran que están huyendo por amenazas de la mara (pandilla) o miedo a la policía, y eso es migración forzada”, aclaró esta investigadora académica de la Universidad Estatal de San Diego y de la Universidad Estatal de California en Santa Bárbara.

Estas cifras son similares a los datos revelados el pasado mayo por el Alto Comisionado para los Refugiados de Naciones Unidas (ACNUR) en el documento “Niños en huida”, que revela que el miedo es la razón para emigrar en el 66 % de los menores salvadoreños, el 54 % en hondureños y el 20 % en guatemaltecos.

“La migración de niños de El Salvador se debe a la violencia generada por las maras Salvatrucha y 18; en Honduras es igual, pero hay otro elemento de presión que son las condiciones de pobreza, los cárteles de la droga y otros grupos criminales”, destacó.

“En Guatemala, además de las pandillas y carteles, los menores emigran por la extrema pobreza y mucha violencia intrafamiliar. La mayoría de menores guatemaltecos que emigran son indígenas de áreas rurales y de bajos recursos que son objeto de discriminación”, explicó la académica.

Con financiación de una beca Fulbright, Kennedy trabaja desde hace ocho meses en el estudio “Niños inmigrantes sin acompañamiento, respuesta de protección para migración forzada de centroamericanos y dinámica de familias centroamericanas”.

“Los menores (salvadoreños) que he entrevistado declaran que si se quedan en su comunidad van a ser golpeados, violados o asesinados, y no tienen confianza en la policía, por eso no denuncian”, indicó la investigadora, que también es catedrática universitaria.

Según cifras oficiales, en lo que va de año fiscal 2014 (que comenzó en noviembre de 2013), más de 52,000 menores sin acompañamiento de adultos fueron detenidos cuando intentaban entrar ilegalmente en territorio estadounidense, y se prevé que esta cifra roce los 100,000 para finales de 2014.

“El 90 % de mis entrevistados aseguran tener familiares en EE. UU. y solamente un 35 % declara que se van por reunificación familiar”, contó la investigadora.

Kennedy acordó con familiares de 20 menores comunicarse con estos en el trayecto desde El Salvador a EE. UU. “Dieciséis lograron entrar a EE. UU. sin detección, y ya están con sus familiares, cuatro fueron detenidos, dos de ellos liberados; pero los otros dos no sé dónde estarán”.

Anonymous. 2014. [Some] believe that wave of child migrants is because of gang violence. El Diario de Hoy 25 July 2014.

Chavez, Carlos. 2014. Regresar a El Salvador con $1. La Prensa Grafica 20 July 2014 <;.

Mientras lo cuenta, aparece Elizabeth Kennedy. Una joven becaria estadounidense que trata de estudiar, desde el Centro de Atención Integral del Migrante, los casos de menores que migran sin más compañía que la de un coyote y las razones que llevan a familias completas a migrar sin papeles a Estados Unidos. Esto a pesar de que la ruta requiere transitar por un territorio cuajado de bandas criminales, como la que en 2010 asesinó a más de 72 migrantes indocumentados en Tamaulipas –14 de ellos eran salvadoreños–.

Elizabeth: “Desde octubre del año pasado he estado entrevistando deportados y puedo decir que la principal causa por la huyen es por inseguridad. Yo me atrevería a decir que más del 50 % está saliendo por ese motivo”.

Univision. 2014. Existe poca ayuda legal para ninos migrantes. Univision 18 June 2014

Difícil obtener el asilo
Es más difícil, aunque no imposible, lograr un caso de asilo, dijo Elizabeth Kennedy, profesora de San Diego State University e investigadora sobre el tema. Kennedy está en El Salvador entrevistando a niños migrantes y lo ha hecho también en Honduras y Guatemala. Aparte de eso se especializa en escribir testimonios para casos de asilo como experta.
“Esto es un servicio muy caro. Yo lo hago gratis porque tengo becas para mi investigación y hago otras cosas, pero toma 20 horas de trabajo hacer estos reportes para casos de asilo con el que probar que hay un temor legítimo de volver al país”, dijo Kennedy. “Las cortes de inmigración además no están aceptando que las maras son organizaciones con capacidad de percusión internacional, lo cual hace más difícil probar los casos”.

Marrero, Pilar. 2014. Investigadora: “Los menores huyen, no migran” [Children flee rather than migrate]. La Opinion 18 June 2014





Boeri, David. 2014. “Gangs Violence is Why Most Children Flee El Salvador, Survey Finds.” WBUR 90.9 17 December 2014 <;.

‘But make no mistake, says Fulbright Scholar Elizabeth Kennedy: They are fleeing.

“You have adolescents making very calculated risk analyses that their risks of staying in El Salvador are much higher than the risk on the journey,” Kennedy explains. She conducted interviews with 600 children who tried to get to the United States this summer, but were stopped short of the U.S.-Mexico border and sent back to El Salvador by Mexican police.

There are a number of reasons the children give for leaving, Kennedy says, including reunification with parents in America, getting schooling and finding work. But the predominant reason (given by 58 percent of her interview subjects) is escaping gang violence.

“They know they face kidnapping … rape, maiming, forced labor, disappearance, murder on the migrant routes,” she says. “But they feel that’s a certainty if they stay in El Salvador.”


Trull, Armando. 2014. “Voices from El Salvador: Gang Violence Driving Youth Exodus.” WAMU 88.5 6 October 2014

“Most kids have seen crimes committed, whether it’s murder, rape, most know someone who’s been disappeared,” says Elizabeth Kennedy, a Fulbright scholar. She’s interviewed more than 600 Salvadoran youth who fled the country, but were deported from Mexico before they could reach the US. Nearly 60 percent told her they were fleeing gang violence.

“They’re afraid, especially for youth that are from poorer neighborhoods; the gangs are often the most present agents in their lives,” she says.

Fulbright researcher Kennedy has interviewed many young crime victims.

“But when we asked them if they had made a report to the police, they said no,” Kennedy says. “And in most cases we asked them why, and the typical responses we receive are ‘the police and the gangs are the same.’ You don’t know who’s who, but if you did that, your problems would really begin.”


Hinojosa, Maria. 2014. A Brief History of the U.S. in Central America (and Oh Yeah, the Drug War). Latino USA 12 September 2014.


Siegal, Robert. 2014. Who Are The Kids of the Migrant Crisis?. NPR All Things Considered 24 July 2014.

‘Elizabeth Kennedy, a Fulbright scholar who’s been working in El Salvador, has some answers. As part of her research in the capital, San Salvador, on unaccompanied minor migrants, she interviewed more than 500 children and adolescents as they returned to El Salvador after being deported from Mexico.

She tells NPR’s Robert Siegel that many of them are desperate.

“These are the most dangerous places in the world,” Kennedy says. “The only place that has a higher murder rate than Honduras is Syria.”

Of the 322 interviews she’s analyzed, Kennedy says 109 interviewees “received direct threats that they could either join a gang or be killed.”

In most cases, Kennedy says, kids and teenagers leave Central America to avoid climbing levels of gang violence, extortion and drug trafficking. Sometimes, it’s to find their families. Ninety percent of the young people she’s interviewed have relatives in the U.S.; 50 percent have one or both parents there.

The Mexican government has recently announced a new initiative to step up control of its southern border. Kennedy says El Salvador is feeling the effects. The migrant return center where she works has gone from receiving one or two buses of children twice a week to receiving more than six a week.

But, Kennedy says, those kids will try again. She interviewed a 12-year-old boy who returned to El Salvador barefoot; he had been robbed of everything he owned.

“I asked him if he was going to try again,” says Kennedy, “and he just burst into tears and said, ‘What would you do if you were me? I haven’t seen my mom or my dad in 10 years … and no one here loves me.’ “‘

Shoecraft, Gwyneth. 2014. ‘They Fear for Their Lives.’ Voice of San Diego 12 July 2014–+full+feed%29.

Masters, Ian. 2014. Background Briefing with Ian Masters 10 July 2014.



Mesa Publica. 2014. Entendiendo porque ninos Centroamericanos estan dejando sus paises. 18 August 2014

YSUES Radio Universitaria. 2013. Perspectivas Informadas. See translated text here: If you’d like the audio file, please email me.

YSUES Radio Universitaria. 2013. Perspectivas Informadas. Ver el texto traducido aquí: Si te gustaría escuchar el audio, por favor, escríbeme.




CBS. 2014. You Can’t Have a Good Life Here. CBS Evening News 24 July 2014

‘”They are afraid of organized crime, they’re afraid of gangs,” said Elizabeth Kennedy.

Kennedy is a Fulbright scholar who has interviewed more than 500 Salvadoran children as part of her research.

“It’s very common for children here to have seen a murder. It’s common for children to have already lost a family member. That’s something no one should have to live with because you’re not really living your life if every moment you’re afraid you’re going to die,” she said.

El Salvador has the world’s fourth-highest murder rate, fueled by powerful gangs and a growing drug trade. Those sent back from the U.S. are prime targets.

Kennedy says that more than half of the children she’s interviewed after they were sent back plan on trying to make the journey again.

Does she think the Obama administration coming out and saying they can’t stay here will actually decrease the flow?

“I do not. Until root causes are addressed, until people can feel safe at home, until they are not afraid for their life, people are going to keep migrating because it is a human instinct to want to survive,” she said.’


CBS. 2014. For Child Immigrants, Dangers of Staying are Most Grave. CBS News 17 July 2014. and


Al Jazeera. 2014. Life As a Migrant Child. Al Jazeera America 15 July 2014.

“Over half of these kids are coming because of violence, crime, gang threats,” said Elizabeth Kennedy, a Ph.D. candidate at San Diego State University and a Fulbright scholar, who’s been studying the steady rise in unaccompanied entering the United States for the past three years. “[It’s] an untenable situation for children and adolescents in these countries.”

“You are more likely to die in these nations than you are in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in [the Democratic Republic of the Congo],” said Kennedy, who has spent the past eight months in El Salvador interviewing children who have been deported from Mexico.

She says 70 of 322 children that she interviewed have quit school because they’re afraid to walk past gangs on their way to classes.

“The United States has adopted many policies that have been written in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the primary in that is the interest called the best interest principle,” said Kennedy. “These are children. These are not adults, and if there’s any chance that we could be returning them to harm, we don’t want to do that.”

Kennedy believes sending kids back home won’t solve the root problem.

“The reality is that violence and insecurity are increasing in these three nations. So the influx is going to continue,” she explained.

She also cautioned that this current crisis will erode some advances in child rights that advocates have made over the years.

“They are the American Dream. They have big goals. They want to work hard, that’s why they came here,” she said of children like Josseline who trekked from Central America to the U.S.

Sands, Bob. 2014. Fort Sill Immigration. Oklahoma News Network 14 July 2014.  and .

NBC. 2014. KNTV’s Reality Check 8 July 2014.



Chamorro, Vladimir. 2014. Presidentes centroamericanos abordan con Obama tema migratorio. HispanTV 25 July 2014.

Casteanas, Salvador. 2014. Ninos centroamericanos migrantes huyen de la violencia. Univision 20 June 2014

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