Word of mouth in Central American is strong and there is a pervasive belief that the U.S. has been relaxing its immigration stance toward minors. The belief was spurred by recent discussions about possibly changing U.S. immigration policy and by a change in U.S. law in 2008 that provided more rights to minors at the border that included a hearing before a judge.

At the same time, a crackdown on cartels caused those criminal organizations and their trafficking operations to spread from Mexico to Central America. More people decided it was time to leave for the U.S. where they believed they would be allowed to stay.

Migrants were told to have their children turn themselves into the Border Patrol and they would be given a permit to enter the U.S., said Eric Olson, associate director of the Latin American Program for the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

The permit, however, was really an order to appear for a deportation hearing.

Even so, with court backlogs and a shortage of judges, it can take as long as three years to get a hearing. In the meantime, children are reunited with family in the U.S. and live far away from the violence at home


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