Wave of Central American Migrants Approaches 2014 Crisis Levels


Thousands of Central American people are journeying through Mexico to the United States. The influx of migrants may soon rival the surge of arrivals that sparked a border crisis in 2014.

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers Toolkit.

NGS Picture Id:110286
Young children play in Honduras, a country where many are fleeing from violence. Photo by David Alan Harvey, National Geographic

Discussion Ideas 

  • Why are so many Central American people fleeing their homes to come to the U.S.?
    • In the “Northern Triangle” region of Central America, which includes Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, violence is prolific.
      • El Salvador is plagued by gang violence and has the highest murder rate in the world.
      • Honduras also suffers from gang violence as well as major high-level political corruption.
      • Guatemala faces extreme poverty, made more intense by a drought, as well as terrible violence against women and young girls.


  • In 2014, tens of thousands of people from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras ventured through Mexico to the U.S. border. Now we are seeing a resurgence. Why did the number of migrants drop in 2015 and then rise again?
    • The violence in Central America did not stop in 2015 and begin again in 2016. Instead, in response to the 2014 border crisis, the U.S. sent money to train Mexican border guards to enforce their border more strictly. When more people were being arrested at the Mexican border, fewer were apprehended at the U.S. border.
      • Mexico has been unable to sustain the frequency of border arrests it made last year because of overcrowded facilities and too few border guards.
      • Human smugglers or “coyotes”—people who smuggle others across borders—have also become more nimble in response to Mexico’s heightened border control.


  • What are some of the ways the U.S. has tried to slow the influx of migrants at the border?
    • In response to the 2014 crisis, the U.S. Congress approved a bill to send a quarter of a billion dollars to aid the countries of Central America’s Northern Triangle.
      • Because of the government and police corruption as well as frequent human rights violations in the region, Congress put a good deal of conditions on the aid money.
      • There are not yet robust vetting systems in place so much of the money has not actually reached Central America.
    • The U.S. government also launched a public relations campaign in the Northern Triangle to spread the message that fleeing to the U.S. would be dangerous and unsuccessful.
      • U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson also traveled to the region to share that message in person.
    • Immigration officials in south Texas have opened family detention camps, which have been controversial.
    • Meanwhile, non-governmental organizations such as the Catholic Charities of Rio Grande Valley run shelters for migrants and work to provide them with essentials.


  • What happens to Central American migrant children who make it to the U.S. on their own?
    • That depends. Unaccompanied migrant children are more or less likely to be granted asylum depending on the state where they apply. Children who apply in Los Angeles and San Francisco are significantly more likely to be approved than those who apply in Chicago or Houston.
      • This can be attributed in part to regional differences in opinion toward migrants, but immigration lawyers and members of Congress have denounced this as unequal justice.
NYT doc
Learn more about Central American migrants from this New York Times documentary.   Click to view.


  • The Obama administration recently launched a series of raids to deport hundreds of Central American migrants who were in the country illegally. What do the 2016 presidential candidates say about deporting illegal immigrants?
    • Presumptive Republican candidate Donald Trump promises to remove nearly all of the 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S.
    • Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have condemned large-scale deportation raids as inhumane.



NPR: Surge Of Central American Migrants To U.S. Could Rival 2014 Wave

NPR: U.S.-Mexico Border Sees Resurgence Of Central Americans Seeking Asylum

NPR (2014): From a Stream to a Flood: Migrant Kids Overwhelm U.S. Border Agents

American Immigration Council: Understanding the Central American Refugee Crisis: Why They are Fleeing

Associated Press: Children’s Asylum Approvals Vary by U.S. Region

Reuters: U.S. Deportation Raids Target Central American Families

One thought on “Wave of Central American Migrants Approaches 2014 Crisis Levels

Leave a Reply