With the morning sun still rising into the sky, most of the local thugs haven’t arrived to stand watch by the taxi stand at the entrance to the settlement. Jennifer Garcia, a heavy-set 22-year-old mother of three, coddles her baby in her arms and swings back and forth in a hammock behind her house in La Paz, a gang-controlled neighborhood on the outskirts of San Pedro Sula, Honduras’s most violent city.
Garcia, like thousands of other young people in similar neighborhoods across Central America, has abandoned plans to build a life for her family in her home country and is planning to migrate north to the United States. She hopes to join her husband and four-year-old son in Texas. Her calculus is relatively simple: “I’m here alone, without work,” she says.
The neighborhood gangsters have made life impossible. Most days, the maras (gang members) wait by the entrance of the neighborhood, vigilantly watching who comes and goes. For Garcia and tens of thousands of other Hondurans, the threat of violence and absence of economic opportunities are two of the major push factors that drive migration. At the same time, the prospect of reuniting with family in the U.S. continues to serve as a pull factor that augments the northward exodus even as the U.S. works to bolster security at the Mexican border. In 2014 the U.S. border patrol detained 257,000 non-Mexican migrants, the overwhelming majority of which came from Central America. It’s a trend that isn’t likely to disappear any time soon, as families riven by two decades of migration continue to try to reunite in the United States.