The massive influx of young refugees from Honduras and other Central American countries is due to the drug war, to the illegality of drugs, to the commerce in drugs, and to the unrealism of how we react to drugs, drug trafficking, and drug use.
According to Sonia Nazario's reporting in the Times from Honduras:
Children still leave Honduras to reunite with a parent, or for better educational and economic opportunities. But, as I learned when I returned to Nueva Suyapa last month, a vast majority of child migrants are fleeing not poverty, but violence. As a result, what the United States is seeing on its borders now is not an immigration crisis. It is a refugee crisis. (my emphasis)
Children and their families in Honduras are under constant threat of violence and extortion to participate as bystanders, carriers, dealers, and hit men in the war among the drug gangs in their country.
Here is how it happened:
Gangs arrived in force in Honduras in the 1990s. . .[American gang members] were deported in large numbers from Los Angeles to Central America, joining homegrown groups like Los Puchos. But the dominance in the past few years of foreign drug cartels in Honduras, especially ones from Mexico, has increased the reach and viciousness of the violence. As the United States and Colombia spent billions of dollars to disrupt the movement of drugs up the Caribbean corridor, traffickers rerouted inland through Honduras, and 79 percent of cocaine-smuggling flights bound for the United States now pass through there. (my emphasis)
In other words, in one of a series of never-ceasing historical moves to disrupt the drug trade, the United States--through the DEA, the American military, the ONDCP, and every branch of the government concerned with drugs, along with U.S. minions in the region--the Obama administration, drug policy strategists, addiction experts, you and I (well, you actually) have created the forces represented by tens of thousands of mothers and kids and kids themselves showing up at our border.
The cause of this phenomenon--which has overwhelmed us morally, politically, and logistically--is America's belief that drugs are an overwhelming force that cannot be handled by our society. They are too powerful and will capture our children and create life-long diseases for them and all users. All of our experts, AA, and Nora Volkow, who heads the government's addiction agency, tell us this is so.
None of these things are true, however. But we have operated as though they were true, and perhaps always shall, with a range of costly, demoralizing, and damaging effects for our society.
The kids at our border are simply the latest example of these results. So we need to own this consequence as an inevitable cost of our beliefs about drugs.
Stanton Peele has been empowering people around addiction since writing, with Archie Brodsky, Love and Addiction in 1975. He has developed the on-line Life Process Program. His new book (written with Ilse Thompson) is Recover! Stop Thinking Like an Addict with The PERFECT Program. His website is peele.net.