Here’s a piece that a few of us at WOLA just put out today, throwing together a lot of our data, arguments, and proposals about the current moment at the border.
This is a brief summary. The full text with graphics is at WOLA’s website.
There is a real crisis at the border due to a dramatic increase in the number of families from Central America seeking asylum. Almost two-thirds of migrants now coming to the U.S.-Mexico border are children or families, compared to only 10 percent in 2012.
This is a genuine a humanitarian crisis, not a security threat. The Trump administration’s policies—including threats to shut down the border, build a wall, cut aid to Central America, and increase deportations—have made the situation worse.
The crisis is taking a toll on migrant families, humanitarian aid workers, overworked Border Patrol agents, and overwhelmed judges.
This presents new challenges for border and immigration policy, but it is something that the U.S. government should be capable of administering in a safe, orderly, and humane way. In a new analysis, WOLA provides background on who is coming, why they are coming, and what could be done to address the problem. Here is a brief overview of the key points.
Who is coming?
- Families and children from Honduras and Guatemala, and a much smaller number from El Salvador, seeking asylum.
- This represents a shift—not just an increase in numbers, but a new population of migrants.
- This new pattern is likely to be an ongoing trend unless underlying factors are addressed.
Why is it happening? A combination of these:
- Violence and insecurity in Central America at some of the world’s highest levels.
- Poverty and lack of economic opportunity, including collapsed rural economies, with risk of famine in some areas.
- Corruption, which benefits organized criminal groups, smuggling networks, and public entities engaged in illicit activities.
- Separated family members seeking to reunite.
- The asylum backlog itself, during which many asylum-seekers wait years for their hearings.
What can we do to address the long term trends?
- Contribute to efforts to make Central America a place that people don’t need to flee.
- Recognize Mexico’s efforts to support Central American migrants and expand access to asylum.
- Massively revamp our beleaguered land ports of entry.
- Get serious about alternatives to detention, especially family case management.
- Eliminate the backlogs with more courts, judges and staff in a reformed immigration court system that respects due process.
What can we do in the short term?
- Relieve Border Patrol agents and let case workers and others process forms and handle the needs of children and families.
- Expand short-term facilities to process migrants and asylum-seekers in a timely and humane manner.
- End backlogs and waitlists for asylum-seekers at the ports of entry.
- Immediately cancel the “Remain in Mexico” program, which is contributing to risks and chaos at the border.
- Hire people who speak indigenous languages to assist in processing migrants.
For more information, read the full analysis.