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Denver Post: Demand for drugs drives children to U.S. border

Published July 26, 2014 1:01 am

The Denver Post
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Is the American appetite for drugs like cocaine helping to stoke mayhem in Central America that in turn pushes migrants north?

That's what Gen. John F. Kelly, head of U.S. Southern Command, argued recently in an article in Military Times. Kelly says that "drug cartels and associated street gang activity in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, which respectively have the world's number one, four and five highest homicide rates, have left near-broken societies in their wake."

And Honduras President Juan Hernandez recently seconded the notion, saying anti-drug operations in Colombia and Mexico have pushed the cartels into nations ill-equipped to suppress them.

There are, of course, other reasons for why the tide of unaccompanied minors crossing the border picked up this year. The Washington Post reports that the Obama administration failed to heed warnings last year of a possible jump in numbers. Meanwhile, a law passed under the George W. Bush administration for processing refugee children from Central America has encouraged the tide, and needs to be revised.

But the report by the general reinforces the claim that some migrants are not just seeking opportunity but fleeing chaos.

The White House on Monday said that the number of unaccompanied minors crossing the border declined sharply in recent weeks, to 150 per day from an average of 355 per day in June.

So maybe the message that the children will, for the most part, be returned to their homelands has begun to percolate through the Central American countries from which they primarily come.

Still, even 150 such crossings a day would result in more than 50,000 children annually arriving on U.S. soil — and still constitutes a humanitarian crisis.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock last week stepped up to offer temporary housing in an underutilized youth facility, and CBS4 reported this week that a partly empty facility in Arapahoe County under contract with the state is also interested in housing some of the children.

They may have to be returned, but they should be housed humanely until that day. And that's especially true given how this nation craves the drugs that have fostered so much violence in the children's homelands.

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