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The Children Streaming Across the U.S. Border Are Fleeing Violence and Poverty

The number of children caught trying to cross America's southern border has reached such alarming levels that President Barack Obama has described the area along the Mexican border as an "urgent humanitarian situation." On Monday, Obama directed federal agencies to coordinate their response to stem a crisis that has seen thousands of unaccompanied minors stream across the U.S. border with Mexico.

The number of children caught crossing the U.S. border has skyrocketed in recent years, according to data from U.S. Customs and Borders. The Unaccompanied Alien Children program expects to see 60,000 referrals in 2014, compared to 24,668 in 2013. The graphic below illustrates that striking increase. (Note that the graphic includes what in all likelihood is a typo: The far-left bar should be labeled 2003-2011.)


According to a map put together by the Department of Homeland security, the increase is driven by a witches' brew of poverty and violence in Central America. The map presents a breakdown of children arriving to the United States from Central America during the first half of the year. Those from Guatemala hail mostly from rural areas, while children from El Salvador and Honduras are mostly escaping frighteningly violent cities.

Click to see a larger version of the map.

Far and away the largest group, more than 2,400 children, traveled to the United States from San Pedro Sula, Honduras, a city best known for having the world's highest murder rate. The next most common points of origin are the Honduran cities of Tegucigalpa and Juticalpa, each of which saw more than 800 of their children caught migrating to the United States.  

Prior to 2014, the vast majority of unaccompanied children picked up at the U.S. border came from Mexico. In the first half of 2014, however, the number of children from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras increased so dramatically that Central America is now sending an equal number of children across the U.S. border.


Click here to see a larger version of the graphic.

Photo: Getty Images News

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Concern Is Rising in the Middle East Over Islamist Extremism

With the Islamic State, the group formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, making territorial gains in Iraq, the horror of the Syrian civil war continuing unabated, and Israel in mourning over the kidnapping and killing of three teenagers, it is perhaps no surprise that the countries of the Middle East are alarmed at the spread of militant beliefs in the region. With violence and unrest marring the region, new data released by the Pew Research Center for 14 countries with substantial Muslim populations shows high levels of concern for Islamist extremism.

 

 

With the Syrian Civil War entering its fourth year and a coalition of violent extremist groups challenging the rule of President Bashar al-Assad, border nations Turkey and Jordan have seen double-digit increases in the levels of concern expressed over militant violence, In Turkey, 31 percent say they are concerned over extremism. In Jordan, that figure is 62 percent.

In Lebanon, a country to which millions of refugees from the war have fled, 92 percent say they are concerned by extremism, a worry that is shared by the country's Muslims and Christians.

The Syrian civil war is also having an apparent effect on Hezbollah, the mighty Shiite political and military group based in Lebanon. Having deployed fighters in Syria to bolster the Assad regime, Hezbollah is seeing its popularity plummet in several nations in the region. In Lebanon, however, it has retained a formidable base of support:

Interestingly, the poll, which was carried about between April 10 and May 25 and included more than 14,000 responses, shows a decline in the popularity of Hamas -- the militant group in control of Gaza and labeled a terrorist group by the United States --  within the Palestinian territories. Since it took control of the Gaza strip in 2007, Hamas has seen in its unfavorability ratings markedly rise among Palestinians:

More radical groups are also experiencing challenges in the court of public opinion. In Nigeria, where the militant group Boko Haram gained worldwide notoriety earlier this year for their kidnapping of 300 schoolgirls, some 76 percent say they have a highly unfavorable opinion of the group.

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