Left Behind Children of Guatemalan Immigrants

“When people leave, they leave for necessity,” 13-year-old Karen said, regarding her parents who moved from el Xab, Guatemala to Tennessee more than a decade ago. Karen’s parents left her and her younger sister, Heidi, in search of a job to build a better life for their family.

When asked, Karen said that she would much rather have her parents than the roof over her head. “You are left sad because you can’t feel their love,” she explains.

Karen and Heidi’s parents are only two of the 120,000 Guatemalans that attempt to immigrate to find work outside of the country. According to a 2009 United Nations Children’s Fund report, many of these immigrants never return to their homeland and often families.

Unfortunately, the number of individuals emigrating from Guatemala is skyrocketing—and there are more left behind children in Guatemala than ever before. “Family disintegration is one of the negative effects of emigration,” says Erick Maldonado, Guatemalan vice minister for foreign relations.

Maldonado also mentioned that, with the absence of a family, many LBC are often lured into gangs or criminal activity. Guatemala, with 400 gangs and around 14,000 members, has the highest amount of gang activity in Central American countries, according to a United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime report.

In addition, Guatemalan LBC often abandon their education in hopes that they will someday go to the United States, and many try to make the trip. According to UNICEF, about half of the youth migration from Guatemala to the United States is for the soul purpose of reuniting a family. Many LBC attempt to immigrate at a very young age, sometimes only 15 or 16 years old.

Left Behind Children are not only prevalent in China, but all around the world. For the parents of Guatemalan LBC, the United States is their destination. Follow GCV as we attempt to find a solution to this global problem, and change the lives of hundreds of LBC worldwide.




Treviso, Perla. “Children of Illegal Immigrants Left behind.” Timesfreepress.com. Times Free Press, 29 July 2011. Web.

“Deportations Destroying Community, Hurting Children.” The Guatemalan-Maya Center.

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