Child Migrants from Central America: 'War Refugees'

Jun 18, 2014 | Updated Aug 19, 2014

When Honduras' President Juan Orlando Hernández spoke at the US Chamber of Commerce in Washington, DC on June 13, he talked about the more than 47,000 unaccompanied migrant children from Central America who were apprehended by US Border Patrol agents during the past eight months while trying to cross the US southwest border. He said, "We are very worried about the children, but sadly this is a security problem provoked by drug trafficking from the drugs consumed by the US, and this has had an impact on the situation involving the displacement [of Hondurans]."

President Hernández added, "If we would make a truly effective joint effort, [the children] would not be coming in these quantities. They are those who have been displaced by war, and I believe that the United States has to do more."

These are extremely telling comments made by Mr. Hernández, because it is clear that he is directly linking the mass migration of these children to the violence fueled by the growth of the drug cartels and their industry in Central America -- an industry that is fed by the insatiable appetite for illegal drugs by US consumers. Perhaps most profound, though, was Mr. Hernández description of these children. The exact words that he used in Spanish were "desplazados de guerra" -- which can be translated "war refugees."

So what Mr. Hernández implied was that there is a war (or something close to it) going on in Central America, and that the threats associated with it are primarily what is driving all these children away from the region. In short, these tens of thousands of children are seeking asylum.

Americans have been consuming huge quantities of illegal drugs from Latin America for decades. The drug trade has long been booming in South America and in Mexico. Illegal immigration from Mexico and Central America is also nothing new. The difference during the past 5-6 years is that major drug cartels like the Zetas and the Sinaloa have established new bases of operation in Central America. As the Mexican and US governments have engaged in the second leg (the first being in Colombia) of the "Drug War" against cartels in Mexico, the cartels have simply moved farther south to the so-called "Northern Triangle" countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

It is precisely this phenomenon that has caused the spikes in the homicide rates in these nations, particularly Honduras. The growing number of murders, cases of extortion, and acts of gang violence have been exacerbated by weak, corrupt and incompetent governments and the extreme poverty that has always been a staple of this region of the world.

It is this deadly combination of factors that is now driving Central Americans, including lots of children, away from their homes in such high numbers. And there is no end in sight for this flood of refugees, because most of them have everything to lose by remaining in communities that are being decimated by well-armed and -financed drug lords, their deadly product, and their contract killers, the gangbangers. Yeah, it's a war alright.

When people like Senator Ted Cruz of Texas blame the current surge in Central American immigrants on the Obama administration's "lax" immigration policies, they just don't know what they're talking about. The ignorance is pitiful. No Ted, all these kids wading across the Rio Grande are not a "direct consequence of Obama's lawlessness", they're a consequence of the lawlessness stimulated down south by the US consumer. It's a market driven problem, which is made even worse by US arms dealers who are more than glad to supply the cartels and the organized gangs with weapons that allow them to outgun local police forces. Yep, it's a war.

You've heard it said, "When the US sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold." Well, in this case it's, "When the US consumer sniffs, Central Americans get screwed."