Story by David Martin Davies
At the center of Tegucigalpa is the Plaza Morazán, often called Parque Central – Central Park. This is Tegucicalpa's physiological hub. It features the grand statue of former president Francisco Morazán on horseback and an elaborate baroque-style cathedral overlooking the square.
It’s comparable to Mexico City’s Zocolo but much smaller – which is appropriate. Honduras is a small nation. It holds about 8 million people and it’s about the size of Kentucky. And it’s a poor country – the second poorest in the hemisphere after Haiti.
On one side of the Plaza there’s a new outdoor theatre stage – on this afternoon it’s being used by a religious group delivering a fire and brimstone speech to the children of Honduras look to the church – and stay away from trouble.
More and more children of Honduras aren’t looking to the church for their future but to the United States where they are likely to find trouble.
So far in 2014 more than 13,000 unaccompanied Honduran children have been apprehended by the Border Patrol, twice the number in all of 2013 and more than four times that of 2012.
President Barack Obama Monday sent a request to Congress for $2 billion to be used on the surge of immigrant unaccompanied minors.
In record numbers, the children are coming from Central America, crossing the Rio Grande and overwhelming the U.S. system after being apprehended at the Texas border.
Darwin Mardeana has survived that trip to El Norte. He said Hondurans head north to find an better life.
“You want to try to have more easy to live. You can eat. You can have water. You can have a house. It’s awesome," he said.
With the help of a human smuggler from Mexico – a coyote – he crossed the Texas-Mexico border at Del Rio.
“One guy he said – don’t stop. You run, run, run. Don’t stop through there. And I don’t stop when I passed the Rio Grande," he said.
Darwin then paid someone $500 to take him to Houston, where he found work. But he said he wanted to return home, and six months after his journey Darwin bought a bus ticket bound Honduras.
Today he works with a faith based charity called Breaking Chains Honduras trying to improve the lives of others Tegucigalpa. But his efforts won’t be enough to prevent other Honduran youth from making that long trip to the United States.
Julio Melendez is a television reporter for Canal 11 in Tegucigalpa and he’s known for his coverage of the streets. He said he agrees that there are many push factors in Honduras driving this immigration surge the top one being the poverty.
“We have very poor people living in Honduras. Many of the families living in the colonia live one dollar a day," he said.
Melendez said the other major push factor is the gang violence which is related to immigration. He said so many men left their families in Honduras to work in the U.S. that it tore the nation’s social fabric.
“And this is the big problem because here the boys grow up without father and without institutional support. We have here boys without fathers and they do into the gangs," he said.
And Melendez said, while there are strong push factors in Honduras, there are also strong pull factors from the U.S. – a strong economy and the glossy American culture – like the name brand fast food and Hollywood entertainment. But he said he rejects the assumption by some in the U.S. that the DREAM Act or changes in the enforcement of U.S. immigration policy are a pull factors.
People heading north don’t know and aren’t concerned with U.S. immigration policy, he said. And the reporter said deportations won’t solve the issue for the U.S. They will just try again.
And now facing mounting pressure from the U.S., the Honduran government is working on trying to convince people here that going to the U.S. is not a good idea.
They are airing television public service announcements warning parents of the dangers of hiring a Mexican coyote, and reminding viewers that the children are the future of Honduras.