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Residents of Latin American Feel Least Safe in Global Survey, Fueling Undocumented Immigration from Region

First Posted: Aug 19, 2014 03:07 PM EDT
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Latin American residents stated they feel less safe in their region compared to other regions worldwide. Latin American security concerns could result in an increase of undocumented immigrants migrating north to the U.S.

In a Gallup poll, residents of Latin American and the Caribbean ranked themselves from 0 to 100 on the organization's Law and Order Index. The Law and Order Index represents residents' confidence levels in their local law enforcement, sentiments on personal safety and self-reported incidence of theft. With 100 representing the highest, or safest, score, the Latin American and Caribbean residents scored 56 points.

Sub-Saharan Africa scored 59 points, Middle East and North Africa scored 65 points and the U.S. and Canada scored 79 points. Residents in Southeast Asia felt safest with a score of 80. While Latin America and the Caribbean ranked lowest, it is an increase of two points from Gallup's 2009 survey.

The region with the sharpest drop its in score from 2009 was South Asia with a 6-point decline, from 76 points to 70 points. The former Soviet Union region saw the highest score increase, 6 points, improving from 56 points to 62 points.

"The relatively poor personal security situation in Latin America and the Caribbean has not significantly improved over the past five years," noted Gallup's Jan Sonnenschein.

Homicides in Latin America and the Caribbean represented 36 percent of the murders globally in 2012. Gallup noted the region surpassed Africa's murder rate, mainly due to the growth of organized crime in the Americas.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, Venezuelans felt the least safe. The Venezuelan index score was 41, the lowest for the region and in the world. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime acknowledged the reoccurring economic and political crisis in Venezuela added to the country's increasing murder rate. Only 19 percent of Venezuelan adults said they felt safe walking alone at night, and only 26 percent said they trust their local police.

El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico scored double digits higher than Venezuela, despite the ongoing influx of undocumented immigrants entering the U.S. from the four aforementioned countries. Honduras scored 56, while Guatemala received a 57. El Salvador and Mexico's Law and Order Index scores were tied at 59 points.

Although Honduras scored better than Venezuela, Honduras had the highest murder rate in 2012, ahead of Venezuela.

According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico contributed to over 61,000 unaccompanied and undocumented children entering the U.S during the 2014 fiscal year. The children migrated to the U.S. for various reasons but often cited security concerns, growth of drug cartels and organized crime. Honduras led the unaccompanied undocumented immigrant minors statistics with 17,582, ahead of Guatemala's 15,733. The CBP apprehended 14,591 unaccompanied undocumented immigrant children from El Salvador. While the number of Mexican immigrants declined from 2013, 13,675 children were apprehended by the CBP.

Meanwhile, the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Refugee Resettlement released 37,477 unaccompanied minors to a sponsor, usually a parent or relative, across the U.S. between Jan. 1 and July 31 this year.

By 2015, the White House said up to 150,000 undocumented children will enter the U.S.

Nicaragua and Panama tied for the safest Latin American and Caribbean countries with 67 points, but it was the former that saw a better improvement from 2009's survey with a 9-point increase.

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