Date of Graduation

Fall 12-16-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in International Studies (MAIS)


College of Arts and Sciences


International Studies

First Advisor

Kathleen Coll

Second Advisor

Lindsay Gifford


According to US Customs and Border Protection, over 59 thousand unaccompanied minors from the Northern Triangle (Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador) have been detained at the US border, of those 59 thousand, 17 thousand are from El Salvador. El Salvador is home to some of the most dangerous and ruthless gangs of the twenty-first century. Their ruthlessness comes from 1980s guerrilla warfare experience. In addition, El Salvador serves as a transshipment point for illicit substances from South America into Mexico. These dynamics fuel the homicide rate of the region as local gang members must protect their territory by any means necessary. The gangs have not just targeted rival gang members, they have been killing civilians and police officers who refuse to join their gang, or refuse to pay extortion or rents, or for simply visiting family members who live in neighborhoods controlled by the opposing gang. Their disregard for human life makes El Salvador one of the most violent countries in the world, and this is even though the country is technically not at war. Thousands of children are forced to flee the country for safety. The annual rate for forced displacement as a proportion of the country’s population is reported to be at the same level as those fueled by the 1980s civil war.