Guest Commentary Opinion

Guest Column: We should open the border to Central American refugees

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The U.S. and Mexico’s Southern Border Program prevents desperate people from entering the U.S. border. Most of these people are refugees escaping gang warfare and poverty in their countries, and fit the requirements to qualify for refugee or asylum status in the U.S.

According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Central America is one of the sub-regions with the highest homicide rates, four times higher than the global average. Much of the violence is the work of international, loosely tied networks of youth gangs, called maras, that began with the U.S. deportation of Central American migrant gang members in the 1980s.

President Barack Obama and Mexican President Peña Nieto partnered up, making a deal called Programa Frontera Sur, which in English means Southern Border Program.

The program intends to address the 2014 mass immigration of unaccompanied Central American children and women who reached the U.S. border seeking asylum by avoiding an accumulation of people reaching the U.S.border again.

The number of Central American families, including infants, reaching the U.S. border has significantly decreased due to increased deportations in Mexico through this program. This plan may have reduced successful crossing attempts to the U.S. by complicating the journey across Mexico, but it does not change the number of refugees willing to cross Mexico.

The U.S. currently pays Mexico millions of dollars to deter Central American refugees from reaching the U.S. through this program.

The U.S. role in funding most of the finances for the Southern Border Program allows Nieto to attain more power within Mexico, which is harmful since he is known globally for concealing human rights violations within his country.

The Southern Border Program allows human rights violations to occur. The program forces refugees to search for new, riskier routes in Mexico to get to the U.S. to avoid the Mexican police. These sketchy routes are randomly dispersed in isolated areas of Mexico that have no access to services and other people.

Refugees get lost traveling these routes and get stuck in places where criminals can take advantage of them. Refugee women and children are prone to kidnapping, rape, sexual abuse and sex trafficking while traveling on these routes.

Mexican police involved with the Southern Border Program are also deporting Central American children and victims who have been abused in Mexico without prosecuting perpetrators. Reports show that the Mexican police are recruiting criminals in Mexico to capture Central American refugees, which leads to further abuse.

The Southern Border Program does not accurately address the issues that encourage the immigration of Central American refugees, which is poverty and gang violence. The refugees lack resources to combat the gang violence in their countries due to their impoverished backgrounds.

U.S. should use the money it spends on the Southern Border Program to aid the Central American countries where the refugees come from. These expenses could be used to help extend humanitarian programs and build safe havens in affected Central American countries.

U.S. politicians initiating the Southern Border Program with Mexico seem to use the U.S. fear of terrorism, derived from 9/11, as their justification for the existence of this program. In reality, the hidden motives behind this program is for the U.S. to push all of their responsibility in causing the refugee crisis to Mexico.

The U.S.’ mass deportations of migrant Central Americans who affiliated with gangs in the ’80s plays an integral part in the violence happening in Central America today. The U.S. continued with these deportations throughout the ’90s and early 2000s.

Nothing was done on behalf of the U.S. to try to address its gang problem and instead punished the migrant gang members by deporting them back to their Central American countries, which pushed the U.S. gang violence to Central America instead.

The U.S. must exit their partnership with Mexico regarding the Southern Border Program and abolish this program to provide easier access for Central American refugees to reach the U.S. border.

People can also get involved in helping end the Southern Border Program by signing petitions and volunteering in refugee advocacy programs.

Ashley Patterson is a first-year graduate at the Graduate College of Social Work and can be reached at [email protected]

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