The Arizona Republic takes a close look at the pipeline bringing a flood of Central American migrants to the U.S., including thousands of unaccompanied children, beginning in villages like Quebrada Maria, near the Caribbean coast of Honduras. That’s where dimple-faced, 14-year-old Brayan Duban Soler Redondo lived in daily fear of being beaten up or killed by members of gangs like Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13), and Calle 18. Gangs terrorize neighborhoods throughout Central America. Over three days in May, gangs in another Honduran city murdered five children ages 5 to 13. “They cut their bodies into quarters as a warning to others because the children didn’t want to distribute drugs in their neighborhood,” said Father German Calix of Caritas Honduras, a Catholic relief agency.
Slayings like these were why Brayan was desperate to leave. He imagines himself working in an office in the U.S. someday, “wearing fancy clothes” and sending money back to his family. The surge of migrants began in 2011 but was barely noticed outside southern Texas until it became a gusher in recent months. It overwhelmed the Border Patrol system, which was set up to care for only about 5,000 unaccompanied minors per year, nothing like the numbers that are crossing the border now. Many young people, like Brayan, said they heard stories of others who made the arduous trip to the U.S. and were reunited with mothers and fathers, brothers, sisters or cousins, aunts and uncles. Others who made the trip said they had heard or read reports in the Central American media or on the Internet that they could get “permisos” to live in the U.S. if they made it to the border.