By ALLISON VARZALLY
CAL STATE FULLERTON
Confronting dispiriting levels of poverty, violence and political chaos, residents of Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala have attempted to find refuge in the United States in recent years. The scale and suddenness of their migration has worried Americans already anxious about the strength of border enforcement and the consequences of undocumented immigration.
However, what has complicated American anxieties and intensified debates about American responsibilities to the foreign-born is that so many of these migrants are children crossing the border unaccompanied by a parent. These boys and girls who ride atop trains, wade through rivers, climb across mountains and wander through deserts risk injury, abuse, theft and even death.
Many are dispatched by loved ones who fear for their safety and regret the absence of opportunities in Central America. Others seek reunion with mothers or fathers who have already crossed the U.S.-Mexico border, searching for better-paying jobs and the chance to send remittances back home.
The United States has responded by elevating its pressure at the border, detaining Central American women and children, directing resources towards capturing migrant smugglers, and persuading Mexico to more energetically police its own southern border. As a consequence, the size of child and family migration has slowed from its peak in 2014 even as the regional migration crisis has not ended.
This is not the first time the arrival of children without visible family members has caused poignant discussions about American obligations to foreign dependents displaced by war and poverty.
Nor is it the first time families in ravaged…