Violence, poverty, unemployment and U.S. immigration policy have all been blamed for the massive arrival of unaccompanied children from Central America at the U.S. southern border. The Washington Post says some experts and advocates suggest another factor: U.S. policies of the 1990s and 2000s that deported thousands of gang members back to Central America. Authorities were attempting to root out Latino gang violence in American cities. Instead of dispersing, the gangs took root in Central America, abetted by the push of drug-trafficking routes into Central America from Mexico.
The gangs grew more ruthless and expanded into international drug trade and other crimes, leading to escalating violence in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. Critics of proposals to deport the new crop of youths warn that the U.S. risks making the same mistake twice, accelerating violence over the border by condemning those fleeing the gang explosion to become either gang members or victims. Not everyone agrees that the earlier deportations are a root of the crisis. Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington said that while deporting gang members from the U.S. may have contributed to the growth of gangs in Central America, the real problem was the U.S. failure to enforce the law against illegal immigrants, especially criminals, in the first place.