Southern border immigration is changing

By Claire Crites | Guest Columnist

The profile of a single, young male from Mexico compromising the majority of southern border migrants in the United States is no longer a reality. According to the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), 40 percent of apprehended migrants in 2018 were children and families. Compare this to 2014 when children and families compromised only 10 percent of apprehended migrants — it is clear a change has occurred.

Migrants are also no longer primarily from Mexico. According to the Pew Research Center, there were more apprehensions of non-Mexicans than Mexicans at the U.S. border in 2017. This decline conveys a decrease in unauthorized Mexican migrants attempting to gain residency in the United States.

Not only are the people who are actually migrating changing, but the flow of migrants attempting to seek asylum in the United States has reached its lowest point in nearly half a century, according to WOLA. The amount of migrants apprehended in 2018 was the fifth lowest since 1973, WOLA reports. Contrasting the fear-mongering rhetoric that has permeated the current presidential administration, there is no mass surge of migrants, and these migrants are not allegedly dangerous young males, but rather children and families.

This then begs the question: Who is migrating to the southern border and why?

Families and children from Northern Triangle countries are fleeing intense gang violence, organized crime and the cycle of poverty within their countries. The Northern Triangle consists of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras — each of which have some of the highest homicide rates in Latin America. Violence in all three of these countries has risen to unprecedented levels in recent years. According to The International Rescue Committee, Guatemala has the third highest rate of female killings in the world.

Each country has an exiguous criminal justice system that allows rampant gang violence including rape, domestic violence and murder to often go unpunished. This creates a cycle of abuse that families are desperate to escape.

Those looking to escape include Nelda, a teenager from Honduras who fled to the United States along with her mother and sister from her sexually abusive and violent uncle who had ties to Honduran gang networks, as reported by the Center for American Progress. He threatened to kill them if they did not withdraw their police report against him. Not being sure of their safety and not wanting to suffer further abuse, they fled. This story is unfortunately not uncommon.

The current presidential administration stokes unnecessary fears and hostility towards migrants to profit off a cheap, politically expedient rip cord. The crisis at the border is not a rush of dangerous migrants but rather families trying to escape the pattern of death and violence in their country. According to Pacific Standard, in 2016 only 20,455 people total were granted asylum of the estimated 180,617 people who applied — 11 percent. The statistic is even lower for Northern Triangle migrants— 75 percent of cases from the Northern Triangle were denied between 2012 and 2017.

The lives of human beings are at stake — we can do better.

If you want to be a part of the solution and help migrants seeking asylum status, contact your legislative officials such as Congressman Bill Flores and Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn to express your support. If you are looking to directly serve, pursue volunteer opportunities with Waco Immigrants Alliance or consider donating to The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) or The Texas Civil Rights Project.