Just Americas: A Blog by LAWG

For Migrants, #immigrationcrisis Starts Long Before U.S. Border

The media is saturated with news of the current #immigrationcrisis or #bordercrisis, but where does that crisis really start?

A month ago, President Obama declared the influx Central Americans seeking refuge at the U.S. border to be an “urgent humanitarian situation.”  However, for the tens of thousands of migrants fleeing spiraling gang and domestic violence and poverty in their home countries, the crisis begins far before they arrive in the U.S.—starting in their home communities and multiplying on their journey through Mexico.

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Human Rights in Transit: Migrant Defenders Speak on Work in Mexico

Unprecedented numbers of young migrants arriving at the U.S. southern border have caught the attention of U.S. media and authorities. In just the last nine months, 52,000 unaccompanied minors, as well as 39,000 women with children, mostly from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico, have been apprehended at the border, and that number is predicted to keep growing. This “crisis” has sparked an important conversation about what is going on in their home countries that would spur so many people to risk the dangerous journey north.

The Latin America Working Group was honored to host a delegation of two migrant rights defenders from Mexico to call attention to the plight of migrants in their home countries as well as along the migrant route through Mexico. Particularly in the Northern Triangle countries (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras), high levels of gang and domestic violence, poverty, and lack of economic opportunity are driving more youth and women with young children to migrate. In their journey through Mexico these migrants are often only met with more abuse, violence, and corruption.

Sister Leticia Gutiérrez is the Director for the Scalibrinian Mission for Migrants and Refugees (Scalabrinianas: Misión para Migrantes y Refugiados, SMR) in Mexico, which works extensively with migrants who have been the victims of abuse in Mexico. Juan José Villagomez works at the migrant shelter in Saltillo, Mexico (Casa del Migrante de Saltillo). During their visit to Washington, DC, they met with policymakers and NGOs to share testimonies of the abuse and extortion faced by migrants in Mexico, and their experience with the recent surge of children and women.

In the following interviews, Sister Leticia and Juan Jose describe some of the reasons people are migrating from Central America, and the perils they face in Mexico.

Interview with Sister Leticia Gutiérrez:
(turn on CC for English captions)

Spanish and English transcripts are available here.

Interview with Juan José Villagomez:
(turn on CC for English captions)

Spanish and English transcripts are available here.


Women’s Voices and the Colombian Peace Process: We Must Sweep away the Culture of War

Three Colombian women
— Olga Amparo Sánchez (Casa de la Mujer), Magda Alberto (Mujeres por la Paz), and Danny Ramírez (Conferencia Nacional de Organizaciones Afro-colombianas)—recently talked about the inclusion of women in the peace talks in Havana. At an event sponsored by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), the Latin America Working Group Education Fund, and the Colombia Human Rights Committee, the panelists also discussed the contributions women can make to help with the country’s healing process.

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Cuban Americans for Engagement Make Third Trip to Washington

Cuban Americans for Engagement (CAFE) came to Washington, D.C. this week to advocate for a re-establishment of relations between the United States and Cuba. CAFE was represented in Washington, D.C. by members from all over the country, including North Carolina, Texas, Washington, Colorado, Illinois, and Florida. The group attended meetings with various congressional offices, governmental agencies, and the Cuban Interests Section. Members of CAFE expressed new perspectives on U.S-Cuba relations and addressed the need to see improvement in the dialogue between the two nations.

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Poll Shows the Changing Dynamics of Cuban-American Miami

The recently-released 2014 Florida International University (FIU) Cuba Poll shows major changes in the attitudes of the Cuban-American population in Miami-Dade County, Florida on issues surrounding U.S. policy toward Cuba. Researchers at FIU have been polling this community for over 20 years, beginning in 1991. This year, the findings prove that the loudest voices in the Cuban-American community do not necessarily reflect the views of the entire community and that a majority of the community would be open to a change in U.S. policy.

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