The emigration from the Latin American Countries, particularly from Central America and Mexico, to the United States of America is a much known fact. There are many factors and circumstances that trigger off this problem, and one of the most important among them is the widespread sexual and gender-based violence. A report published in 2014 by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees reasons that a high percentage of children fleeing their homes in Mexico and Central America is due to domestic abuse, violence at the hands of gangs, cartels and “state actors” (such as police). When asked why they left their home, 59 percent of Salvadorian boys and 61 percent of Salvadorian girls list crime, gang threats, or violence as the reason for their emigration.
Sexual violence has become so common, especially in the context of increasing violence at the hands of gangs and cartels in Central America. In year 2009, the organization of “Doctors without Borders” launched its first Latin American Mission dedicated to treating rape and abuse victims, in Guatemala. According to their report, during the first three months of 2009, 275 cases of survivors of sexual abuses were attended and treated by them and among these cases, almost 41% of victims were adolescents, aged between 12 and 18 years. For most of them, the sexual abuse suffered was the first sexual experience. We can imagine the consequences of this traumatic experience that would leave them crippled, probably for life, if they do not receive adequate support. This is only a tip of the iceberg of the large problem faced by the Central American countries.
During the recent years, there has been a rise in the number of unaccompanied children trying to cross the border to the United States. According to a report by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), 102,000 unaccompanied children from Mexico and Central American countries were apprehended at the U.S. – Mexican border by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency from the start of fiscal year 2014 until August 31, 2015.  The main reasons why these children are forced to leave their home countries could be placed into two categories: violence by organized armed criminal actors and violence at home.
 Brick, Kate, A.E. Challinor and Marc R. Rosenblum. 2011. Mexican and Central American Immigrants in The
United States. Washington, DC: Migration Policy Institute.
 The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). 2014. Children on the Run:
Unaccompanied Children Leaving Central America and Mexico and the Need for International Protection. Washington, DC.
 Kennedy, Elizabeth. 2014. No Childhood Here: Why Central American Children are Fleeing Their
Homes: American Immigration Council.
 Médicos sin Fronteras. Sobrevivientes de Violencia Sexual: Derecho a la Atención Médica y
Psicológica. Centro Operacional. Ginebra.
 Pierce, Sarah. 2015. Unaccompanied Child Migrants in U.S. Communities, Immigration Courts, and Schools:
Washington, DC: MPI
Fr. Jose Cyriac Melukunnel, SVD
CCP Research Assistant