If conditions in countries of origin don’t change, children and families will continue to flee
By deferring the deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants, President Obama has provided much-needed humanitarian relief to families; yet it is only a short-term solution.
“The President’s announcement is a temporary solution to problems in our outdated and unjust immigration system; and a ray of hope to the hopelessness in much of Mexico and Central America,” said Bill O’Keefe, Vice President of Advocacy and Government Relations for Catholic Relief Services. “Ultimately, however, unless the conditions in migrants’ countries of origin are addressed on a larger scale, children and families will continue to leave.”
Catholic Relief Services echoes the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in strongly urging Congress and the President to work together to enact permanent reforms to the nation’s broken immigration system and fund efforts that will help ease the poverty, violence and lack of opportunity that compel people to leave their home countries.
As insecurity in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador — known as the Northern Triangle — is exacerbated by increasingly violent gangs and their collusion with narco-traffickers, many undocumented immigrants’ children, nieces and nephews now see no alternatives but to make the trek to join their families; a trek that has become only more dangerous. Migrants and refugees navigating through Mexico today often suffer extortion, kidnapping, sexual assault, robbery, and some are caught up in trafficking.
“People often ask why families would permit children to make the dangerous trek through Mexico; for us, that simply demonstrates the hopelessness of their situations at home,” stated O’Keefe.
In the long-term, the United States must deepen its investments in the countries of origin. As more than 60,000 children and more than 60,000 vulnerable families in fiscal year 2014 demonstrated, the poverty and insecurity in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala make life for many nearly impossible. Some children in need of protection come to the United States to reunite with undocumented parents or other relatives.
“The Administration’s investment in employment generation, education, and the revitalization of rural economies of the Northern Triangle, as announced last week before the Inter-American Development Bank, begins to scratch the surface of the problems in the region,” O’Keefe said. “These efforts must be scaled up significantly to provide the opportunity and security in the home countries of the migrants and refugees who now seek them in the United States.”