Today’s Migrant Flow Is Different

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Police patrol a low income neighborhood in the capital city of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2015, after several residents were pulled from their homes by armed young men and executed. Honduran police say more than a dozen people have died in two massacres within a span of 12 hours. Another eight were killed in the city of San Pedro Sula after armed men stormed a bus terminal and shot eight drivers one by one. It was a bloody 12 hours for Honduras, which only recently was designated the world’s deadliest country for a nation not at war. (AP Photo/Fernando Antonio)

Poverty has driven many previous waves of migrants from their homes. What’s new now is the rise of the gangs.

Historically, Central Americans have tended to migrate for economic reasons. Since the end of the internal armed conflicts in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua—which together displaced almost 2 million people in the 1970s and 1980s—thousands of Central Americans travelled to the U.S. to escape economic misery in their war-torn states. During the late 1990s and early 2000s, the U.S. saw record numbers of apprehensions of migrants along its border with Mexico.

Today’s migrant flow is very different. Yes, there are still male heads of household seeking to pursue the “American Dream” in the U.S. so as to send home a couple of hundred dollars each month to their families. But the crux of the recent crisis at the border is that there are fewer male migrants in their 20s or 30s making the crossing, and many more families, newborns, children, and pregnant women escaping life-or-death situations as much as poverty.

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