Why Do the Children Flee?

map of Mexico and Central America showing homicide rates

The connection between violent crime in Central America and migration by its citizens to the U.S. has been well documented, but new research from UNH political scientist Mary Malone shows that this prevalence is closely associated with policing practices. In particular, the study finds that countries that have created community-oriented civilian police forces are the source of fewer emigrants than countries that have not.

In 2014, the number of Central Americans seeking refuge in the U.S. – including 57,000 unaccompanied minors – led to great debate in the U.S. and the desire to better understand why it was happening and how to prevent it.

The research found that the Central America migration emergency is not just a product of U.S. policies on drugs, guns and immigration, but the failure of some governments to protect their citizens.

The report can be found here: https://carsey.unh.edu/publication/children-flee-central-america.

One Response to Why Do the Children Flee?

  1. Galaxian says:

    The “nothing works” school of thought will be hard to convince. Does police practice really have that much to do with murder rates anywhere in the world, or are other cultural factors more important? Although theories on causes of crime have abounded since Durkheim’s era, we don’t know much more about the phenomenon than the French sociologist did. The difficulty seems to be that while correlations between homicide and other social or psychological variables such as poverty and low self-esteem are relatively easy to find, actual causation is usually impossible to prove. The low self-esteem theory went out the window, for instance, as evidence clearly refuting it arrived.

    Policing styles indeed probably do matter, although their effects must come before homicides take place, say when dangerous individuals are removed from the streets. The “community policing” angle then simply entails better police intelligence that follows better rapport, not necessarily a role for police as social workers. It also seems likely that those countries which use a national police force rather than local police departments are bureaucratically impaired with respect to developing good police-community relations. How much can the USA do about this, however? Money buys equipment and training, but courses in community policing strategy will have limited impact until a country’s political culture has become amenable to it.

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