Honduras’s Desperate Voyagers

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from TIME Magazine,

Children are leaving by the thousands and heading north. Fear of gangs and the promise of prosperity have created a refugee crisis for Barack Obama.

A Chubby 17-year-old in a polo shirt and baggy pants is Barack Obama’s latest problem. His name is Antonio, and he lives 1,725 miles (2,775 km) from the White House in one of the world’s most murderous cities. Since April, five of his friends have been gunned down–three killed together by gangs as they rode in a car, two shot dead on a street corner. Antonio took a bullet in the calf last year, leaving him with a limp and a scar. Now he says he has two options: get his own gun or flee Honduras and get to the U.S., where he has an uncle living in Louisiana.

“God has helped me survive until now. But I need to get out of here,” he explained while keeping his head low in the back of a car, after asking that his surname not be used for fear that local gangs would target him for talking to a journalist. “I dream about being able to walk down the street without looking over my shoulder thinking someone is about to kill me.”

He is not the only one looking for a way out. More than 43,000 unaccompanied minors from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador have crossed into the U.S. since October, a flood 10 times as large as in 2011. Some go to be reunited with parents. Some go for jobs or because they incorrectly believe that Obama has promised amnesty to those who make it over the border. But one of the biggest reasons, according to surveys by the U.N. and others, is fear of the criminal gangs that shape lives back home.

congressional leaders in the House have rejected Obama’s request for $3.7 billion in emergency funding, including about $300 million in new foreign aid to Central America. “We all recognize that we have to do more to address the root causes of the problem, and that includes poverty and violence in Central America,” Obama said on July 25 after meeting with the leaders of all three countries at the White House. “We have a shared responsibility.”

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