Hot Topic: Running Scared – Children Crossing the Border


Fall, 2014 (reposted Dec., 2015)

Estimates of the number of unaccompanied children who tried to cross the border into the United States in 2014 range from 60,000 to 80,000. The flood slowed somewhat in 2015 but it still hasn’t stopped. Most of the children come from Central America:  El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Honduras, traveling across Mexico on their own or in the company of smugglers knows as coyotes. By all accounts, the journey is horrifyingly dangerous and unimaginably difficult.  And the outcome is uncertain; their entry into the U.S. is illegal so detention and eventual deportation are likely.

Like all social phenomena, this one is the result of choices made by individual people.  Impoverished and beleaguered families in Latin America are choosing to send their children, alone and often afraid, to sneak across Mexico and into Texas. They know it’s dangerous; they know there’s no guarantee of success. They know that even if the children arrive safely, they may be caught by the border patrol, spend months or years in detention, or face hostile American communities. Why would loving parents send their children into peril and an uncertain fate?

By reminding us that people make rational choices from the alternatives they face, the economic way of thinking teaches us to ask “WHY is this their best choice?” rather than to judge whether or not it really is. In this hot topic students will use opportunity cost analysis to investigate why so many Central American children are Running Scared.


Immigration Kids Running Scared – Children Crossing the Border  (Students)

Running Scared (Teacher Guide)

Sept. 2015 Update:  http://www.cnn.com/2015/09/21/politics/us-children-crossing-border-spike/   CNN article and video:

 “US Sees New Spike in Number of Children, Families Crossing Border”



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