Addressing The Central American Refugee Situation

Short, medium, and long term plans.

Short, Medium, And Long Term Plans

Since 2014, over 200,000 unaccompanied children and people in family units have fled the Northern Triangle region of Central America–which includes El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala–to the United States. These children and families are seeking protection, escaping some of the most dangerous countries in the world – where violence, corruption, murder, and extortion are a norm – in search of safety. While the flow of asylum seekers dropped temporarily in 2015, the numbers of children and families reaching the U.S. border is increasing again this year, as conditions in the Northern Triangle region continue to deteriorate. And with the summer just around the corner, it is expected that the influx of asylum seekers will only continue to grow.

The growing number of asylum seekers serves as a stark indicator of what the U.N. has been saying for years: there is a refugee crisis in our hemisphere. The problem, however, is not insurmountable: as two reports released by CAP today outline, there are steps that the U.S. can take to establish an orderly refugee processing system in the region, while protecting those that make it to our borders and addressing the root causes pushing these children and families out of their home countries.

In the short-term, CAP proposes a series of recommendations, which are structured to follow the process that children and families go through when seeking protection (from immediate arrival, to custody determination and immigration detention, to immigration court proceedings) to make sure that all asylum seekers who reach the United States receive a full and fair shot at protection. This includes making sure asylum seekers receive access to counsel and increased due process, and establishing a functioning immigration court system.

Ultimately though, these short-term fixes cannot address the bigger issue: the violence and structural poverty that plague the Northern Triangle countries and force children and families to look for safety wherever they can. Durable, lasting solutions to the Central American refugee situation must also come from addressing the challenges on the ground that force people to flee. Part of the fix must involve improving refugee processing solutions both in the countries of origin and across Latin America to give children and families a safe place to flee in the region and be processed as refugees and for resettlement, without having to make the dangerous journey to the United States. It also will involve long-term solutions that are aimed at tackling the root causes of violence, poverty, and insecurity plaguing the Northern Triangle countries. Until the United States, Northern Triangle countries, and nations throughout the Western Hemisphere work to tackle these root causes, children and families will continue to seek protection at U.S. borders and in other countries throughout the region.

BOTTOM LINE: The Central American refugee situation makes one thing clear: it’s time to address the situation in a systematic and orderly way that gives people fleeing violence a safe place to go, while tackling the root causes of violence and poverty that are forcing these individuals to flee in the first place.

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