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Rumors Are Driving Central American Kids To Cross U.S. Border

About 52,000 children have been caught trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border this year.

The numbers of unaccompanied children crossing the U.S.-Mexico border has jumped in the last few months, in part because of gang violence in Central America. But the violence isn’t the only driving factor behind the recent migration. Alfredo Corchado is in Honduras, covering the story for The Dallas Morning News. He tells NPR’s Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep rumors spread by smugglers are also pulling children to the border.

Interview Highlights: Alfredo Corchado…

…On what smugglers have been telling minors:

“’If you have relatives in the U.S., or if you’re a victim of violence in Honduras, there’s leniency. There’s a new attitude on the part of the government that once you get [to the U.S.], you’re headed over to Border Patrol, you will go into detention, you will get a permit, a document that will let you roam in the U.S.’

[The kids] see that as the best thing to the situation they live in now. I talked to a twelve year old and I asked ‘why take this risky journey north to the Texas border?’ He explained to me very bluntly. He said, ‘look, it’s tough to live without hope’ and their hope is kept alive by these rumors of some kind of amnesty in the United States.”

On how President Obama’s deferred enforcement plan plays a role in the situation:

“[People] don’t really know the details [about it] but they’ll tell you ‘we know something is new, we know something has happened, that children are allowed to stay, children who haven’t seen their parents in years can be reunited. We press them on specifics and they really don’t know the specifics.”

…On how the immigration discussion plays into the rumor mill:

“People say, ‘at night, you watch the news and the newscast will lead with talk about the immigration reform,’ but they don’t really know the details, they just know that it’s the faintest little sign of hope to cling to. Even if you hear that 9 out of 10 people didn’t make it, you have to believe that you’ll be that one exception.”

Alfredo Corchado covers drug trafficking and organized crime in Mexico for the Dallas Morning News. He was on Think last year to talk about his book, 'Midnight in Mexico: A Reporter's Journey Through a Country’s Descent into Darkness.'

Former KERA staffer Krystina Martinez was an assistant producer. She produced local content for Morning Edition and She also produced The Friday Conversation, a weekly series of conversations with North Texas newsmakers. Krystina was also the backup newscaster for the Texas Standard.