“Right now we’re just leaving, later on we’ll see how to live”: The Migration Crisis in Central America Turned Humanitarian Crisis

By: Diana Sandoval, Sharon Giang, Rachel Hinojosa, Jose Ballesteros

Awaiting at the Mexico border are thousands of primarily Central American migrants looking to escape the injustices back home, but find themselves short of a welcome into Mexico.

Immigration is an international issue facing countries with weak capacities to deal with the large influx of people. Specifically, Central American immigration into Mexico and the United States has grown drastically due to the worsening economic and political atmosphere of the Central American Northern Triangle – Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Mexico is considered a transit country, because it serves as a gateway for Central Americans migrating to the United States and Canada. Both the inner workings of the immigration crisis and relations with other countries have a forceful impact on the U.S. and Mexico’s positions dealing with immigration, and as a result, affect the people migrating every day. Therefore, the dossier will focus on violence that migrants face in Mexico as well as established or potential policies that are targeted to address the migrant crisis in Mexico. The main actors aforementioned include the Mexican government, the United States government, and migrants originating from various countries in Central America.

Immigration has become synonymous with the humanitarian crisis and is one that has persisted and consistently worsened over the years. In an effort to combat the negligent leadership, policies, and violence towards migrants, many agencies and groups have formed over the years aiming to make a difference in the lives of migrants. For instance, the New Sanctuary Coalition is a faith-based organization that provides assistance to migrants who are applying for asylum and, if they are granted entry, helps them integrate into American society.

Central American migrants have encountered violence within their country for a long period of time now and it has hindered their lifestyle since the Cold War period. They were often displaced due to the ongoing violence between insurgent groups and/or the government. This leads to migrants leaving their home country and heading north to seek asylum in a stable country. Mexico is one of the countries that migrants have to pass through in order to get to the United States or Canada when seeking asylum. However, in Mexico, Central American migrants continue to encounter violence, such as drug cartels, gang violence and discrimination from Mexicans. The continuation of exposure to violence can lead to detrimental consequences to Central American migrants’ wellbeing.

The case of Central American migrants demonstrates the desire of the United States to portray itself as a human rights protector from abroad but incapable to address the pressing humanitarian crisis within its borders. More importantly, it demonstrates Mexico’s immigration paradox such that their call for fair and just rights for their immigrant in the U.S. is not easily seen for the refugees seeking asylum in Mexico. In recent years, Central Americans have been fleeing in masses to their neighboring countries in order to escape the violence and injustices they experience back home. They face violence from gangs, drug cartels, corrupt police officers, and/or their (ex-)partners that all make the dangerous trip up north appear as a gleam of hope (Martínez 2017). Common misconceptions, as a result of mass media, assume that Central American migrants are simply migrating to the United States illegally and stealing jobs from Americans in order to send money back home, but nothing could be further from the truth.Central American migrants would rather spend thousands of dollars they do not have, send their children alone on these trips, place their trust in strangers to transport them, and face the scrutiny of Border Patrol officers than remain in their home countries where violence infests their streets.

As several migrants give their accounts of the tragedies they experience, many people, who yield the power to do something, see but do not fully understand the urgency for action (Martínez 2017). Central American migrants are given empty promises and false hope as they are deported back to their countries of origin to face the violence they hoped to escape. Thus, the issue of immigration affects both sides of the border, such as the fear and arising frustration from the lack of resources and abandonment migrants feel when seeking asylum or simply a better life. Citizens in host countries fear and view the rising numbers of migrants making the journey from unknown countries as a threat. There are diverse solutions such as aid is the way to go, integration possibilities for migrants in the new countries they move to, or government intervention, economic and political stimulation in origin countries to stop migrants from wanting to exit in the first place. However, there is little to no action going into resolving the humanitarian crisis on behalf of any state or leadership.

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