A pipeline of sorrow

The Rev. German Calix, director of a Catholic relief agency in Honduras, described how gang members killed five children ages 5 to 13 in May:

“They cut their bodies into quarters as a warning to others because the children didn’t want to distribute drugs in their neighborhood.”

Here’s Samuel Carcamo, 17, describing why he was willing to embark on a dangerous escape from El Salvador to the U.S.:

“You might die on the way. But it’s for a good cause — your family.”

Sixteen-year-old Jairo Garniga, from Honduras:

“I’m not sure where I’m going in the U.S. or how we’ll get there. I hope God will help me along the way. I’ll do whatever work there is. I just want to work.”

Phoenix immigration lawyer Jose Penalosa:

“I think a lot of the kids come here just to get to know their parents.”

Those are all excerpts from an investigation by The Arizona Republic, titled “Pipeline of children: A border crisis.”

The newspaper dispatched nine reporters and photographers to Central America, Mexico and the Rio Grande Valley, with additional reporting in Washington and Arizona. In four short weeks, the Republic produced a multi-part multimedia series about the tens of thousands of unaccompanied children crossing the U.S. border.

Why the rush?

The Republic’s senior content editor, Stuart Warner, explained in an email that the paper “wanted to try to separate reality from the rumors and rhetoric regarding the surge of unaccompanied migrant children into the U.S.”

This is journalism at its finest, and it leaves no doubt about what is motivating so many families in Central America to send their children on a dangerous, often life-threatening journey.

More than 70 percent of the roughly 57,000 unaccompanied minors who have arrived in the U.S. in the past eight months are from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. All of those countries rank among the top five in terms of the highest murder rates in the world.

Their governments have failed them. Their parents cannot protect them. Poverty has ruled out options.

So these children are fleeing for their lives.

Here’s the link for “Pipeline of children”: http://bit.ly/1sTfoeJ. It’s a lot to absorb. Perhaps we should consider reading the project to be an act of citizenship. That’s what we are so worked up about, right?

I want to believe that any American who reads the Republic’s series and watches the children in those videos would find it impossible to support the notion of adults in this country screaming at them until they’re as scared as they were in their gang-infested neighborhoods.

At the very least, I want to think that America’s elected officials understand that like any child, these terrified children deserve to be treated with compassion.

Alas, such magical thinking eludes me.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and an essayist for Parade magazine.