Latin American Drug Cartels Target Impoverished Children

Drug cartels are a rising problem everywhere, especially for those that are in poverty. Children, specifically children in poverty, are generally the most vulnerable population anywhere in the world. Latin American drug cartels target impoverished children specifically due to their innocence and willingness to obey. Although this situation seems unfixable, people are uniting together against Latin American drug cartels, providing much needed hope.

The Situation

In Latin America, 43 percent of children live in poverty. These children’s come from families with no money for food, clothing or shelter. Cartels know the struggles of these children, so they offer them work. Because many feel they have no choice but to accept work from Latin American drug cartels, 80 percent of children under 25 agree to work for them.

Young children in Mexico and other Latin American countries draw less suspicion than older individuals and are willing to work for little money. As a result, the cartels use them in every way possible. Cartels often send children unaccompanied to push drugs across borders. Subsequently, border security will help unaccompanied children, thus enabling drug traffickers to smuggle drugs across borders.

How Countries Combat Drug Cartels

Luckily for these children, countries are taking steps to eliminate cartels. Recently, Mexico initiated a joint investigative team with the U.S. to fight against drug cartels. The U.S. and Mexico have worked together to combat cartels since the 1970s. For instance, one program, the Merida Initiative, worked to stop the flow of illegal weapons from the U.S. into Mexico and, subsequently, Latin American cartels. Similarly, the U.S. and Mexico offer amnesty to drug dealers in exchange for information.

This new joint investigative team is based in Chicago and directly targets cartel finances. Cartels survive by distributing goods to suppliers and laundering money. Therefore, disrupting their finances and cracking down on money laundering will drastically slow their production. In doing so, the team intends to weaken and ultimately stop Latin American drug cartels.

How Nonprofit Organizations and KIND Help

Nonprofit organizations band together to help the children that drug smugglers employed previously. One organization in particular, KIND, is dedicated to offering such help. KIND protects children’s rights when unaccompanied children are detained by the U.S. and when they are on the move. KIND ensures detained children receive necessary legal aid, especially as these children are burdened with an immigration system they do not understand.

With the U.S. and Mexico targeting drug cartels’ financial assets and nonprofit organizations providing the necessary help, there is hope to eliminate drug cartels and keep vulnerable children safe. The U.S. and Mexico, along with nonprofit organizations, are executing solutions to keep drug cartels away from children and shut them down altogether.

– Emme Chadwick
Photo: Pixabay

al otro ladoMore than 4,000 asylum seekers in Tijuana have written their names on a waitlist in hopes of presenting themselves at the U.S. port of entry. It is unclear how the list began since the U.S. government doesn’t claim jurisdiction and neither does Mexico. Regardless, the waitlists are followed and migrants’ names are slowly crossed off as they are brought to state their cases. Most asylum-seekers are from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, many of whom are fleeing gang violence, political instability and extreme poverty. Al Otro Lado and other nonprofits are helping the migrant crisis.

The Migrant Crisis

Central Americans from the caravan have been labeled everything from refugees, asylum seekers and economic migrants to invaders, aliens and criminals. However, despite widespread disagreement and confusion about the caravan, U.S. immigration and international laws dictate that people have the legal right to seek asylum. Asylum seekers’ have the right to present their cases to an immigration officer, but with so many asylum-seekers to process, thousands of individuals and families are left waiting in limbo.

As Policy Analyst at the American Immigration Council Aaron Reichlin-Melnick explains, “The government would argue that high [asylum] denial rates indicate they’re fraudulent asylum claims… the more likely answer is that people are genuinely afraid for their lives–they may not know the ins and outs of a complex asylum system.” For many nonprofits, the situation is clearly a refugee crisis, and they treat it like one. Since caravans began arriving at the border, humanitarian organizations have been on the ground providing shelter, medical care and legal assistance. This is one way that Al Otro Lado is helping.

Al Otro Lado

Al Otro Lado is a legal services nonprofit based in Los Angeles, San Diego and Tijuana. Over the last four months, Al Otro Lado has helped more than 2,000 migrants in Tijuana while also fighting larger battles to protect the legal rights of asylum seekers. Operating out of an Enclave Caracol, a three-story community center turned migrant shelter, Al Otro Lado provides legal orientation and know-your-rights training to asylum seekers waiting in Tijuana.

Though Al Otro Lado is focused on upholding international and U.S. law, it is not immune to the controversy and violence that has accompanied the migrant caravan. The organization and its staff have received death threats, and co-directors Erika Pineiro and Nora Phillips were detained and forced to leave Mexico in January. Still, Al Otro Lado continues their operations in Tijuana, but now they just unplug their phones between calls to cut down on the death threats.

Other Notable Organizations Helping the Migrant Crisis

  1. In April 2018, Food Not Bombs served food to migrants out of the Enclave Caracol community center. They accepted donations of food, spices and reusable plates among other items.
  2. UNICEF works with the Mexican government to provide safe drinking water and other necessities to asylum seekers. The organization also provides psychosocial services and trains authorities on child protection.
  3. Save the Children provides emergency services, legal representation, case management and works to reunite migrant families.
  4. Amnesty International, like Al Otro Lado, is concerned with upholding immigration law. The organization monitors the actions of Mexican authorities at the border and also documents the situations and conditions that migrants face.

Organizations like Al Otro Lado, Save the Children and Amnesty International see the migrant caravan as a humanitarian issue beyond party politics. They have wasted no time supporting migrants and asylum-seekers who have risked their lives journeying to the border. However, unless governments and organizations address the larger issues that led the people to leave in the first place, they will continue migrating. Faced with violence, persecution and poverty, it’s hard to imagine anyone who wouldn’t do the same.

Kate McIntosh

Photo: Flickr

Border wallsBorder walls are hardly new concepts since the history of border walls stems back to the Great Wall of China and beyond. Yet, in recent years, the number of border walls has skyrocketed. Since the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin Wall, over 60 border walls have either been completed or are under construction. The number has actually jumped from 15 to at least 77. That’s more than five times as many border walls today as there were 30 years ago. In understanding the border wall it is important to understand the historical context of these walls’ creations.

Berlin Wall

The ideology and causes of the Berlin Wall are fairly well known. The wall was meant to separate East from West Germany and thus became the symbol of two competing political and economic ideologies. The conflict between the Eastern Bloc countries and the USSR on one side, and capitalist Western Europe and the United States on the other became physically manifested in 155 kilometers of concrete. Yet, the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. The conflict between the USSR and the United States, as well as their political and economic ideologies, has thus subsided. Moreover, the notion of a post-Cold War, globalizing society should foster the idea that borders ought to hold less importance.

Yet, in the history of border walls, the opposite has occurred. With the Cold War over and globalization already the reality in many countries, the creation of border walls and border protection has, paradoxically, increased. This increase has been linked to new waves of migrants, particularly refugees. They are often constructed as a mean of a country’s security but ultimately serve as barriers for refugees, forcing them to travel through increasingly dangerous situations to gain access to a certain country.

The Wall Between Africa and Europe

The notion that, in the history of border walls, these barriers are meant to deter refugee migration becomes more explicit considering the location of many of these border walls.

Around the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, one of the only slivers of Europe on the continent of Africa, is a border fence between Spain and Morocco. As the last stop on the way to Europe from Africa, the border has become a major destination for refugees and asylum-seekers from war-torn and impoverished countries in Africa. The Moroccan people and government were initially unsupportive of the wall since they view the city of Ceuta and its land as rightfully Morocco’s. Yet, recently, Spain has cooperated with Morocco economically in exchange for Morocco’s police to monitor the border. This has led to numerous human rights abuses and violence, with the Moroccan police frequently raiding refugee camps and destroying the inhabitants’ belongings.

The fact that the barrier exists in Africa, on the southern border between Spain and Morocco, also serves to create the notion of a “Fortress Europe”. Europe can contradictorily want to build bridges yet creates the image of impenetrability with all of the ethnic, economic and racial factors there to unpack.

Thus, the history of border walls shows their existence often creates the veneer of security or inaccessibility but they ultimately do little to actually enhance a country’s safety or prevent illegal immigration. Moreover, while border walls serve as deterrents for refugees, migrants will continue to try and find other means of access to a country. In Ceuta, for example, refugees continue to try and climb over the fence or storm the barrier. And, in March 2014, 1,000 of those people were successful: Fortress Europe was breached.

The Wrong Message of Walls

The cost of building and maintaining border walls are very high but they are often unsuccessful in fulfilling their purpose and yield very little results.

The border wall does communicate the idea of unwelcomeness—refugees or migrants willing to risk their lives to cross into a country with a border will not feel at ease in their new home. With deportation likely being a risk for many of these people, these people tend to keep to themselves and their communities, which hampers refugee integration and creates social stratification.

Ultimately, this brief history of border walls shows that the trend of creating border walls is very ineffective mean of fostering security, mired by xenophobia and fear of refugees. Yet, the fact is that there is an ongoing refugee crisis. The solution, however, isn’t to create massive walls to tell these people that they are unwanted but to increase humanitarian aid abroad, in order to address the issues creating these refugees, while working to welcome the refugees at home.

The average cost of resettling a refugee is around $15,000. The average amount returned by refugees through taxes for a couple decades exceeds $20,000, not to mention the benefits to the market economy, the economic incentive, particularly compared to costly border walls. This suggests countries should take in, not turn away, more refugees.

– William Wilcox
Photo: Flickr