The need for a comprehensive response to Central American migration to the United States

The Trump administration caved to public pressure yesterday and reversed its family separation policy. Instead, it is now going to try to force family detention as a more humane alternative. As of right now, the government is not allowed to hold children and parents together in detention beyond twenty days. Neither family detention nor family separation is a sustainable or humane solution.

Fortunately, Adam Isacson points to an alternative that has been shown to be effective and cost efficient. Unfortunately, the Trump administration shut down the program.

You can read about the Family Case Management system here. It's cheaper than detention. Families check-in at appointments with case workers. And they show up at their immigration-related hearings. Such a policy is not what the Trump administration wants but it is perhaps what we should advocate for.

It does nothing, however, to address the causes that lead thousands of Central Americans to flee their homes each month. I haven't heard anything new from the administration on that front. It tried to cut assistance to the region, as it did globally, but Congress was smart enough to prevent that from happening. The "assistance" that it has cut has not yet gone into effect - Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Hondurans and Salvadorans. The end of DACA will hurt but probably not nearly as much as TPS.

The Trump administration continues to demonstrate support for CICIG, even though it doesn't seem to be as vociferous as the previous administration. Although small in number, important members of the US Congress have been more involved in attacking CICIG. Vice President Pence is traveling to Guatemala in solidarity with its people following a devastating volcanic eruption. Some victims were treated at US hospitals. But nothing more than that. Such a devastating natural disaster would normally lead to some calls for an extension of TPS to citizens of that country in the US. 

The administration failed to stand up for democracy and human rights in Honduras with Juan Orlando Hernandez's re-election, but I don't think that any of us would have expected a Democratic administration led by Hillary Clinton to have done anything different. 

And the US has been relatively hands-off when it comes to El Salvador, even though dozens of individuals tied to the previous administration are wanted on corruption charges totaling in excess of $300 million and the current administration has been criticized for supporting, or at best turning a blind eye, to violence committed by the security forces against gang members and people who look like gang members. 

I don't imagine that the administration will advocate for additional MCC compacts to the region, especially El Salvador. It has yet to call for high-level meetings with the region's leaders, such as those meetings that led to the Alliance for Prosperity initiative. The US seems to be weakening its concerns for women, homosexuals, and victims of societal violence and climate change. None of these bode well for the people of the Northern Triangle.

Moving from family separation to family detention does nothing to our broken asylum system. There are too many cases. There is too much variation in how similar cases are resolved. We don't have enough judges, lawyers, interpreters, or expert witnesses. There are not enough resources to separate weaker asylum claims from stronger asylum claims. 

I've wanted more resources put into the system to make it more just. I think some claims are stronger than others, but very few are fraudulent in that people are just making up stories about having been persecuted. Instead, the administration has moved to really close off access to the asylum process for Central Americans fleeing violence because it believes most claims are fraudulent. Don't let anyone in because some are only coming because of poverty. Don't let anyone in because zero point something percent are victims of trafficking. Don't let anyone in because zero point something percent might be gang members (or just as likely gang members trying to become former gang members). 

I am also in support of providing more resources for Mexico to address the thousands of Central Americans traveling through the country on the way to the US or eventually settling down because the US is no longer an attractive country to which to relocate. Provide assistance for Mexican authorities to process Central American asylum claims, staff shelters and medium-to-long range housing options, and create job opportunities. The United States and Central America are both better off when Mexico is better off. Having the US build walls on Mexico's northern and southern borders is not a solution. 

That's not it of course. We need drug reforms, more sustainable trade policies, and additional legal opportunities for Central Americans to travel to the US for temporary work, family visits and reunification, and permanent residency.