Penate scoffs at those in the United States who suggest that Central American kids are using the violence merely as an excuse to seek asylum in the United States. “How can you argue with it?” he says. “You see it every day here on TV, kids getting recruited by the gangs, and if they refuse to join they get shot.” Ideally, he says, the ATF would have one or two people in each Northern Triangle country. He hadn’t heard that his agency had passed on the emergency funding. “That money would come in very handy,” he said ruefully. That he is doing his work with so little support symbolizes the U.S. attitude toward its responsibilities in Central America. We turn from the refugees fleeing north, as our firepower heads south.

Concerns about uncontrolled illegal immigration, which produced strict curbs in Arizona and other parts of the country, have not been an issue in Dayton. Officials here say their goal is to invite legal immigrants. But they make no effort to pursue residents without legal status, if they are otherwise law-abiding.