Central America: Unaccompanied Children Traveling to the U.S. are Vulnerable to Abuse and Trafficking
Friday, October 10, 2014 12:25 PM

During the long and difficult journey from Central America to the United States, unaccompanied children are vulnerable to abuse, abduction, extortion and trafficking by criminal gangs. Families in Central America pay mercenary smugglers known as “coyotes” to accompany their children to the U.S., often pledging their homes or taking out large loans to cover the cost. The coyotes promise families that their children will receive U.S. immigration papers and a better life in America. However, migrant children are often kidnapped after they leave home and their families extorted for more money. Girls may be sold into prostitution to pay a coyote’s debts to criminal groups or if her family can’t pay more money for her safe release. Families rarely contact law enforcement for help.

According to the New York Times, the “human export industry in the region is now worth billions of dollars.” Traffickers of Central American migrants “operate with impunity," with the number of minors crossing into the U.S. doubling in just one year.

Compiled from: Cave, Damien and Robles, Frances, A Smuggled Girl’s Odyssey of False Promises and Fear, The New York Times (October 2, 2014).