Working in Central America since 2011 has given Elizabeth Kennedy a pretty solid handle on the influx in undocumented minors arriving in the United States.

Tens of thousands of unaccompanied and undocumented children have already arrived in the United States from Central America. They’re fleeing El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, countries experiencing an incredible rise in crime rates.

Kennedy, an SDSU doctoral candidate living in El Salvador on a Fulbright fellowship, works with children who have been deported back to their home country after being caught making the journey across Mexico in hopes of reaching the U.S.

“Most children are leaving because they fear for their lives,” Kennedy said. “Migration isn’t the most accurate word to use,” she said, “they are in fact fleeing.”

Kennedy joined VOSD Radio’s Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts this week to discuss the dangers Central American youths face, the factors that force them to flee and what happens to them once they arrive in the United States.

Download the episode below, on Stitcher or on iTunes. While you’re there, leave a comment and let us know how we’re doing.

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Show Notes

Here’s what Keatts uncovered about the correlation between population density and  trolley usage, and what it means for future development in San Diego.

• Despite San Diego Unified school board’s attempts to thwart its application, Thrive Public School will open its doors in September. Check out Mario Koran’s  story on how the school managed to stay alive.

• Our Hero of the Week is group of media outlets that collectively funded a legal effort that forced District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis to finally turn over the letter of recommendation she wrote for the son of Mexican businessman Jose Susumo Azano Matsura.

• Dumanis and KUSI are our Goats of the week, for their joint efforts in downplaying the recommendation letter and its relevance to the ongoing campaign finance scandal involving Dumanis and Azano. Here’s what we know about Dumanis and Azano’s connections.

    This article relates to: News, Radio, TV and Video, Share, Voice of San Diego Podcast

    Written by Gwyneth Shoecraft

    Gwyneth is an intern for Voice of San Diego.

    SerraMesaBill subscriber

    Come on people, lets be fair about this issue!  I don't think anyone would mind about a few more kids coming over if Juan and Poncho moves them into his house and feeds the.  What bothers me is the 3.7 BILLION  of our tax dollars Obama claims he is going to spend to fix it!  Obama is out of his mind, 3.7 billion! This is another Obama scam and All America's need to type a message on note pad objecting to this corruption, and send to every elected official possible.

         On the issue of our border patrol, how about putting a little more effort into your job. Border Patrol agents, like any civil servants get way to much pay and their retire package is higher then 75% of the rest of the county.  What Americans tax payers get for there money, 50,000 kids to feed in the last 4 months. I think the object to guard the border is to STOP the Immigrants from crossing the border, not to give them a ride when they show up at the fence.

    FIX the fence right with the 3.7 Billion so American's can finally stop spending a trillion dollars a year to have worthless people guarding it.  Use whats left to help Americans!

    Elmer Walker
    Elmer Walker subscriber

    In our rush to save them from their own country we need to consider where they will live in the US. They wont be living in the Hamptons or Beverly Hills. They will be living in projects and gang controlled areas. The violence they will encounter will be the same or worse than in their home country. What will be different will be public assistance. No need to work with free or subsidized housing, free cell phones, free health insurance, food stamps, monthly welfare checks, etc., So why let them in and allow them to stay. Throughout the world there is probably one billion people that are in the same state as those from Central America. Do we also let them come here and support them for life. Do we tolerate their hatred of our system of freedom just so we can feel good about our humanitarian tolerance? Or do we return them home and hope the other billion people don't rush our borders?

    Travis Pritchard
    Travis Pritchard subscribermember

    @Elmer Walker "Do we tolerate their hatred of our system of freedom"

    What nonsense are you talking about?

    davidedickjr subscriber

    As President of the San Diego World Affairs Council, I want to commend VOSD Radio for airing this outstanding interview with Elizabeth Kennedy. She has provided excellent background and analysis on a topic that has surged into the US public consciousness.  The issue of unaccompanied, undocumented minors crossing into the US has brought forth a ton of anguished protest from certain individuals here in the USA.  I wish those who protest would put some effort into understanding the the factors that motivate these kids - before they demand reactive stopgap solutions that will be both punitive and ineffective.  This complex emotive issue actually requires a thoughtful policy response in DC - and in our local communities.  Otherwise, we aren't being honest with ourselves.  

    Mark Giffin
    Mark Giffin subscribermember



    "thoughtful policy response in DC - and in our local communities"

    specifically what is the policy the San Diego world affairs council like to see?

    davidedickjr subscriber

    @Mark Giffin @davidedickjr The San Diego World Affairs Council (SDWAC) is a nonpartisan nonprofit  organization dedicated to educating and engaging San Diegans in global issues, international relations, and cultural understanding.  Therefore, SDWAC does not advocate specific policies or perspectives.  However, we are in the process of organizing a panel event designed to better understand this complex issue.

     As an individual citizen, I can say it is clear any policy proposal designed to successfully reduce the inflow on unaccompanied minors to the US will have to be multidimensional, and multinational.  "Send them back" isn't a serious response as it does nothing to reduce the forces driving them to the US.  What other developed country on the planet would throw undocumented accompanied immigrant children back into a lethal situation?  "Accept everyone" isn't a realistic response - even though many of the children already have documented or undocumented adult relatives in the USA.  Furthermore, the idea of warehousing teenagers in 'protective custody' behind bars or walls isn't realistic either - if only because of the damage it does to the kids.    
    However, the surging number of unaccompanied minors coming to the US is overwhelming the systems we have to deal with refugees and undocumented unaccompanied immigrant minors, aka kids.  I think the fastest way to slow the flow of these child migrants in a sustained manner is to reduce the level of day-to-day violence in their societies.  The flow of migrants makes it clear the violent conditions in certain Central America countries isn't just their problem; it's our too.   The necessary and difficult policies applied in Central American countries will involve a combination of anti-gang, law-and-order action (historically prone to abuse by often corrupt Central American authorities) and sharply-improved domestic, healthcare, and access to opportunity...designed to give people hope for their futures - a challenge in these elite-controlled, winner-take-all, underdeveloped societies filled with weak institutions.  For perspective, the combined population of the 7 countries of Central America is about 44 million - compared with the US population of about 320 million and California's 38 million.  El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, are the countries experiencing surging violence that is driving our child refugees/migrants crisis.   
    In my opinion, the US must stop deporting undocumented criminal convicts.  This policy is massively-counter productive.  We save a few incarceration dollars here in the US - and deliver trained motivated labor into Central American criminal gangs - whose activities are closely integrated with major urban gangs in the US.  We're importing violence.  How does that make sense?  And now Central America violence is pumping migrant minors our way.  We must break this ugly cycle.  We need immigration reform that faces that concrete fact that most undocumented immigrants are here to stay because they have jobs.  When the recession devastated the US housing industry and consumer balance sheets, illegal immigration from Mexico went into reverse.  They actually self-deported!  Those Central American minors who have adult relatives in the US should stay with them - and continue with their schooling.  This would be actual investment in the future of America.  It is regrettable many members of the US public confuse spending and investment.   
    The recent crisis of undocumented immigrant minors is a serious crisis that can only be truly and substantially resolved over a period of, say, 5 years - with a good set of policies here at home and abroad.  Perhaps the greatest impediment to resolving this problem of undocumented immigrant minors is the American public's demand for quick and easy solutions.  How should DC politicians manage that?

    davidedickjr subscriber

    @Mark Giffin In our local communities? We need to be human enough to take care of and children sent our way to care for.  

    Murrieta was a farce.  Even worse, the protesters were mostly from outside Murrieta.  Murrieta is actually an impressively internationally-minded community

    l3Monk subscribermember

    Thank you so much for the conversation with Elizabeth Kennedy - and thank you too to Elizabeth for her efforts. It is so important to hear from those who can articulate the reality of the "push factor" behind the wave of child immigration. Her voice needs to be magnified while most politicians' voices need to be put on mute.