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Those who did not note a gang presence often followed their response with “Gracias a Dios [Thank God]” or “todavía [yet]” and frequently indicated that they expect one to arrive soon.When sharing these concerns, they often mentioned either strangers arriving to where they live or criminal groups coming to their neighborhoods on an irregular basis in order to scout its potential.All three elements of her story had been reported in both La Prensa Grafica and El Diario de Hoy.Another father told me that eight murders, two of which involved children, took place in his neighborhood and the one next to it. While I believed that gang violence was primarily an urban problem before arriving to El Salvador, I have found that this violence is widespread, with children from rural and urban areas of 11 of 14 of El Salvador’s departments most likely to list this as the primary cause of their emigration.Most referenced fear of crime and violence as the underlying motive for their decision to reunify with family now rather than two years in the past or two years in the future.Seemingly, the children and their families had decided they must leave and chose to go to where they had family, rather than chose to leave because they had family elsewhere.
Interestingly, over 90 percent of the children I interviewed have a family member in the US, with just over 50 percent having one or both parents there.
Essentially, if their family had been in Belize, Costa Rica, or another country, they would be going there instead.
When asked why they left their home, 59 percent of Salvadoran boys and 61 percent of Salvadoran girls list crime, gang threats, or violence as a reason for their emigration.
In all 14 cases, news articles supported the high crime rates they described and included names of friends and family members they mentioned as victims.
For example, one girl said that her father and cousin had been killed five years apart and that three murders had taken place in her neighborhood in the past year.