Inflammation and stories on immigration

Complex Problems with Asylum in the U.S.It is no secret that the U.S. immigration system is broken. With thousands of immigrants are seeking asylum in the U.S., Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is detaining them at the border. CBP has effectively jailed immigrant children in detention camps. There are somewhat secretive limits on asylum applications. In order to fix a system, it is necessary to first understand its complexities. The U.S. immigration structure as a whole is a huge and complex system that cannot be simplified into one article. This article will discuss the asylum process and specific areas that have begun to undermine asylum in the U.S.

What is the asylum process?

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website defines asylum applicants as people who are “seeking protection because they have suffered persecution or fear that they will suffer persecution due to race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.” The process begins after an immigrant enters the U.S. either under a different status or as an asylum applicant. An immigrant seeking asylum is required to file a form with USCIS  within one year of entering the country. They must provide extensive evidence that the applicant has a credible fear of returning to his or her home country.

As per regulation, applicants for asylum in the U.S. are able to make a claim at the U.S. border crossing or while they are in the custody of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which includes custody with Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) or Customs and Border Protection (CBP). In fact, there is no way to request asylum in advance. Olga Byrne, Director of Immigration for the non-profit International Rescue Committee, confirmed that “There’s no way to ask for a visa or any type of authorization in advance for the purpose of seeking asylum. You just have to show up.”

After arriving at the border and going through an initial asylum interview. The interviewer then determines whether the applicant’s fear is credible. If the interviewer determines that there is a credible fear, then the applicant is released and given a court date to plead their case before an immigration judge in addition to filing the USCIS form. If it is found not credible, DHS begins deportation proceedings, though the applicant does have the option of requesting that his or her case be heard by an immigration judge.

What are the immediate problems?

The first and most immediate issue is the lack of legal counsel. The government does not provide counsel to immigrants going through the asylum process. Navigating the U.S. legal system can be difficult for anyone, let alone an asylum seeker that may or may not have full command of the English language. Having an attorney makes a significant difference. A 2016 study by Syracuse University found that having representation increases an applicant’s chances of approval for an asylum case by 40 percent.

In the same study, researchers found that 90 percent of claims for asylum in the U.S. without representation are ultimately denied. This is partly because the burden of proof is entirely on the applicant to show to the courts and USCIS that he or she is eligible under the regulations. This can be a difficult prospect for someone who does may struggle with the language or lacks have access to documents containing regulations and applicable evidence while detained.

The second issue is immense pressure to deny cases. Former immigration judge Jeffry S. Chase confirms that immigration judges are assigned quotas for cases each year. Every day, each judge sees a dashboard of their statistics with a green/yellow/red layout to show them whether they are getting through the appropriate amount of cases each day. Though the quotas are meant to help keep cases moving forward, in reality, they push judges to deny cases since denials go faster. Pushing through cases means that applicants and attorneys do not have time to build the record of evidence and ultimately build their case.

What can people do to help?

There are multiple organizations that provide pro bono representation to asylees. The Immigration Justice Campaign is an organization devoted to providing due process for non-U.S. citizens. Another organization is the American Association of Immigration Lawyers’ pro bono project, which provides pro bono immigration counsel to vulnerable populations such as asylum seekers.

For long-term solutions, it is important that people continually contact their representatives about issues in immigration. One can support immigration reform, such as getting rid of judge quotas or providing those seeking asylum in the U.S. with free legal counsel. Government employees generally are not allowed to disclose any information about their work nor are they allowed to speak publically about what goes on behind the scenes at USCIS, DHS, or similar governmental organizations, but that does not mean that they do not care. There are people in government who want to help, but they need citizens to speak up and speak out against unfair immigration policies.

The immigration system as a whole has problems, but they are not irreversible. The asylum process is currently complicated and difficult, but it does not have to be that way. With the right amount of political activism from U.S. citizens and cooperation, change is possible.

Melanie Rasmussen
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About the United State's Southern Border
The border between the United States and Mexico is the second-largest border in the world, spanning about 2,000 miles long. The fences have made it harder to cross but Mexico has been the driving force of U.S. immigration control and has deterred hundreds of thousands of Central Americans from traveling north of the border. Despite the recent headlines surrounding the border dividing the U.S. and Mexico, many people do not have much knowledge about the topic. Here are 10 facts about the United State’s southern border.

10 Facts About the United State’s Southern Border

  1. Arrests at the Border: Arrests at the United State’s southern border are at their lowest in history. Though the number of apprehensions has more than doubled between 2018 and 2019, that number is still below the historical high. Statistics show that U.S. authorities made more than 1.6 million arrests at the southern border, a figure that has been steadily declining. In fact, the number of immigrants arrested at the southern border in 2018 was the fifth-lowest total since 1973, where apprehensions regularly exceeded 1 million each fiscal year during the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s.
  2. Reduced Asylum Seekers: Only a limited number of asylum seekers are passing through the United State’s southern border. The Trump Administration has implemented and proposed changes that have limited the number of asylum seekers seeking refuge in the U.S., causing them to wait weeks and even months along the southern border before legally crossing. One of the changes to stem from the Trump Administration is the metering and queueing process that allows U.S. officials to limit the daily number of individuals who can make asylum claims. Before these changes, most asylum seekers apprehended were able to live the U.S. while awaiting a decision on their immigration status.
  3. Families at the Border: Fact three of the 10 facts about the United State’s southern border is that the rate of families attempting to cross the border is at an all-time high. According to the Pew Research Center, people traveling in families accounted for the majority of apprehensions at the southern border in 2019, totaling 473,682 apprehensions of family units. The cause of family separation is simply because the U.S. does not have enough facilities licensed to detain them. President Trump’s zero tolerance policy has been the result of apprehended families and their separation at the southern border, separating over 4,000 immigrant families. However, a federal court has since blocked Trump’s Administration efforts for now.
  4. Overstays vs. Border Crossings: More people are overstaying their visas than those that authorities arrest at the border. Though the President claims that the issue of illegal crossing at the border stems from immigrants and bad people, the Department of Homeland Security reports otherwise. It reported having had a suspected 606,926 people in-country overstays in 2018 alone, thus, pressuring the President to suspend travel from countries with high rates of overstays.
  5. Illegal Drugs: Most illegal drugs are entering the U.S. through legal ports of entry. Illegal drugs are making their way into the U.S. but not in the way that President Trump suggests. According to a report from the Drug Enforcement Administration in 2018, most drugs entering the United States are not coming from the southern border, but through official border crossings that U.S. authorities safeguard. However, there are efforts to prevent drug trafficking into the U.S. at legal ports of entry. The Trump Administration is working toward providing more customs and border protection officers along the U.S.’s southern border.
  6. Central Americans: The majority of border crossers are Central Americans. Non-Mexicans have far outnumbered the Mexicans crossing at the United State’s southern border. In an attempt to flee extreme violence and poverty-stricken circumstances, Central Americans – those individuals from the Northern Triangle nations including Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador – have accounted for nearly half of the people crossing the southern border illegally today. According to the Pew Research Center, individuals from these three countries accounted for 71 percent of all apprehensions in fiscal 2019, totaling 607,774 combined.
  7. Spread of Disease: Border crossing has lead to increased health issues. A large number of people crossing the United State’s southern border, whether legally or illegally, has led to an increase in health issues, mainly the spread of diseases such as Hepatitis A, HIV, measles and tuberculosis. However, there have been efforts to treat or prevent the spread of disease across the United State’s southern border. Programs such as the Binational Border Infectious Disease Surveillance Program (BIDS) have emerged to detect, report and prevent infectious disease threats and outbreaks.
  8. History at the Border: What some may not know about the United State’s southern border is that the U.S. did not target Mexican immigrants until the early 1900s. Efforts to keep Mexicans out of the U.S. did not begin until the Mexican Revolution in 1910. Armed forces began monitoring the border to keep fighting from spilling over into the U.S. The Texas Rangers and other militias were among the first to form along the border to keep the Mexicans fleeing battle from immigrating to the states.
  9. The Most Crossed Border in the World: The U.S.’s southern border has the most frequent crossings in the world with more than 350 million legal crossings each year and more than 200,000 illegal crossings through Texas. Though the majority of those crossing are seeking refuge and fleeing to escape poverty and violence at home, others are crossing simply for the economic freedoms that the country promises.
  10. Barriers at the Border: Contrary to what most Americans believe, fact number 10 of the 10 facts about the United State’s southern border is that there are already barriers in place. The U.S. has been initiating fencing and other physical barriers with Mexico since the mid-1990s. President Bill Clinton is the first to advocate for a physical barrier between the U.S. and Mexico.

These 10 facts about the United State’s southern border have shown that cutting off aid to the countries of Central America, closing the U.S.-Mexico border and increasing family apprehensions and separations are not going to make the issues circling the border disappear. However, people are doing work on all sides, from Mexico’s government to the CDC and Customs Border Protection officers, in an effort to improve the structure, avoid chaos and move forward with the progress at the southern border.

– Na’Keevia Brown
Photo: Flickr

 

Safe and Voluntary Refugee Repatriation
Despite the constant divisive debates about whether to welcome refugees, they have protection under international law by the 1951 refugee convention, a multilateral United Nations treaty. It defines who people can consider refugees and outlines their basic rights, including access to fair and efficient asylum procedures. Despite the ever-present debates about acceptance, very little of it has actually been to talk about what happens when countries refuse asylum seekers including the problem of ensuring safe and voluntary refugee repatriation rather than returning them to dangerous situations in their home countries.

Refugees in the US

A country must ensure that refugees live in safety and dignity while it is processing their claims, and safety and dignity are also integral to voluntary repatriation. In 2020, the United States will only accept 18,000 refugees. This will be the lowest number of refugees that the U.S. resettled in a single year since 1980 when Congress created the nation’s refugee resettlement program. In light of such low acceptance rates, a national debate around safe and voluntary repatriation is crucial so that those a country turns away will have safe alternatives. Without debate, there is no clear answer to where those refugees should go, if not the United States.

Migrants, Refugees and Asylum Seekers

People often confuse the matter even more because they use the terms “migrants,” “refugees” and “asylum seekers” interchangeably, despite very different legal meanings and obligations. Amnesty International defines an asylum seeker as an individual who is seeking international protection whose claim a host country has not yet determined. In short, a country will not recognize every asylum seeker as a refugee, but every refugee is initially an asylum seeker. “Migrant” is a broad term that describes anyone who moves to another country for at least one year, for any reason.

“Repatriation” is when a person returns to their country of origin, whether it is because conditions have improved and they want to go home or because their host country has refused their request for asylum. According to the U.N. Refugee Repatriation Agency, safe and voluntary refugee repatriation requires not only the commitment of the international community to safely bring displaced people home but also the cooperation of the country of origin, which has to do the difficult work of reintegration and ensuring stability and safety.

So who will be the 18,000 refugees the U.S. allows in 2020? In 2019, refugees coming to the United States from the Democratic Republic of Congo far outnumbered those from other countries. D.R. Congo accounted for nearly 13,000 refugees, followed by Burma (Myanmar) with about 4,900, then Ukraine (4,500), Eritrea (1,800) and Afghanistan (1,200).

Repatriation

As of November 13, 2019, a total of 1,439 individuals repatriated. ReliefWeb, an online news source for humanitarian information on global crisis and disasters, reported that approximately 14,700 refugees chose to return to their country spontaneously and by their own means. However, home countries and the international community are working together to help with safe and voluntary refugee repatriation.

The United Nations, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Angolan government collaborated on organizing convoys for voluntary repatriation. Wellington Carneiro, UNHCR’s interim representative in Angola, stated that voluntary repatriation faced challenges like poor road conditions in the rainy season and the need to find suitable vehicles as a result. However, Carneiro assured that the operation, which he expected to finish by mid-December 2019, would fully guarantee the returning Angolans’ safety and dignity. While the international community’s collaborative work was a big part of the success of these trips, the Angolan government played the most important role. Paolo Balladelli, the U.N. Resident Coordinator in Angola, highlighted this when he said that “the Angolan authorities have shown their solidarity by welcoming people, including children, who were at risk of life due to serious ethnic conflicts. The conclusion of this chapter demonstrates to Africa and the world that Angola is a good example of good international practices.”

Julia Stephens
Photo: Flickr

immigration proposal
On July 16, 2019, the White House advisor, Jared Kushner, submitted a new 600-page immigration proposal from President Donald Trump. The administration urged Congress to review and consider the proposal prior to the August Congressional recess.

The proposal’s key aspect establishes a merit-based system for individuals seeking legal entry into the United States, effectively ending legal loopholes in the American immigration system. Kushner acknowledged that though “a 100 percent fix is difficult,” the administration believes its new plan has the ability to fix 90 percent of legal loopholes in immigration legislation.

The American Immigration Crisis

The United States of America has more immigrants than any other country in the world. Forty million people living in the United States came from another country and this number makes up one-fifth of the world’s migrants as of 2017.

Though there is disagreement over the cause of the crisis at the border, there is bipartisan agreement that the situation at the border between America and Mexico is a crisis. In January 2019, a CNN survey found that 45 percent of Americans felt this way, and in July 2019, the survey found that 74 percent of Americans see a crisis at the border. Additionally, the survey concluded that despite partisan divides, there is a majority agreement across party lines supporting a plan to allow some illegal immigrants living in the United States to become legal residents; 80 percent overall agree, including 96 percent of Democrats, 81 percent of Independents and 63 percent of Republicans.

As of May 2019, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was detaining an all-time record of 52,000 immigrants in jails around the United States. Two weeks prior, that number was 49,000, indicating a huge spike in jailed immigrants. The Trump administration made a decision to expand arrest priorities to nearly every undocumented individual in America, and as a result, the number of immigrants in ICE custody in the Trump administration has increased tremendously from the Obama administration’s average of 35,000 immigrants imprisoned by ICE.

Passing the Legislation

Previous legislation has focused on supporting humanitarian assistance and immigration enforcement, but with a goal of ending all legal loopholes, the immigration proposal from President Trump asks Congress to address problems that do not have funding. For example, there is no funding for changing asylum laws, indicating that President Trump’s new immigration proposal could face several hurdles to passage.

The immigration proposal from President Trump comes at a particularly partisan moment in Senate proceedings, following an eruption on the House of Representatives floor over Democrats’ decision to denounce a series of tweets from President Trump. Many believe that White House senior advisor Kushner will face difficulty in gaining bipartisan support for the bill due to the persistently rocky waters between Democrats and Republicans in Congress.

– Orly Golub
Photo: Flickr

African Immigration to Spain
While Eastern and Central Europe have been dealing with the brunt of the refugee crisis—thanks to conflicts in Syria and the rest of the Middle East—Western Europe is far from unaffected. However, a large number of immigrants in Spain originate from West Africa, and they come to Spain for a variety of different reasons; both as refugees, and in search of economic opportunity unavailable to them in their home countries. This article takes a look at the causes of African immigration to Spain, as well as the living conditions immigrants experience in their new host country.

Five Questions and Answers

1. Why are People from Western and Central Africa Leaving their Home Countries?

The short answer is a variety of reasons. While the overall volume of immigrants to Europe has dropped to pre-2015 levels, African immigration to Spain is still spurred by more than just garden-variety economic migration—though that certainly still plays a large role. The reasons for migration vary greatly by gender, with most men emigrating for economic reasons while most women are leaving due to threats of violence.

2. Why Spain?

Spain has a labor shortage and is more welcoming to migrants than other European countries. While geography is a major factor in emigration from Spain to Africa (the Strait of Gibraltar is slightly over seven nautical miles from the African mainland to Spain), Spain has—until very recently—been a notable exception to the anti-immigrant sentiment overtaking much of Europe. The current Spanish government is center-left, with over 80 percent of adult poll respondents saying that they would be in favor of taking in irregular refugees. New agricultural sectors in the south of Spain—mainly greenhouse farming—have also created an unskilled economy that few Spaniards find attractive, but looks promising to refugees.

3. How do Immigrants get There?

Refugees arrive in Spain either by the Spanish enclaves in Morocco or the dangerous crossings of the Mediterranean. The most immediate destination for African immigration to Spain is the enclave city of Ceuta, which is politically Spanish and geographically Moroccan but is governed more or less autonomously, like Catalonia or the Basque Country. Some also arrive via ship, in the infamously choppy Mediterranean. The first decision of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s administration was to admit the Aquarius, a ship of more than 600 migrants, into Spain after Italy turned it away.

4. What Kind of Life is Waiting for Immigrants Once they Arrive?

“Nobody talks about what it’s really like.” Many of the African migrants in Spain live in the southern regions, doing seasonal agricultural work. This is especially true for the men who emigrated to Spain for economic reasons, trying to send money back home to their loved ones. Despite the supposed greater economic opportunity that comes from a Eurozone nation, many of the African migrants in Spain live in ramshackle chabolas, makeshift shacks comprised of wood and plastic leftover from agricultural scrap. In these settlements, more migrants have mobile phones than access to a toilet or kitchen.

5. Is Spain’s Generosity Towards Migrants Coming to an End?

The short answer is yes. The majority of African immigration to Spain comes through Morocco and the Strait of Gibraltar, but the path of many migrants does not end there. Recently, Spain has come under fire from other European leaders for being the exception to an otherwise-ubiquitous tight border policy, which has put pressure on the Spanish government to somehow stem the tide. In response, Spain has outsourced its border security to Morocco, the country that processes most migrants to Spain. This has alarmed left-leaning political groups and human rights NGOs, who claim that Morocco’s human rights record is inadequate.

While Spain has upheld the Sanchez government’s initial promise of being more accepting of migrants, large-scale African immigration to Spain and pressure from other European leaders has prompted a tightening of the flow of migrants through Morocco and the Mediterranean. While the conditions African migrants find in Spain are far from luxurious, the work is good enough for them to continue to migrate. What Spain ultimately decides to do in regard to the influx of immigrants from Africa could either continue to serve as a lone exception to the rest of Europe or join the continent in its increasing anxiety over immigration.

– Rob Sprankle
Photo: Flickr

climate change in Central America
The effects of climate change are more apparent in some areas than others. Central America is one of these areas with drought, high temperatures and floods contributing to agricultural problems and a rise in migration out of the region and into the U.S. These five facts about climate change in Central America provide a glimpse of how it affects the country and the people who live there.

5 Facts About Climate Change in Central America

  1. Drought: In 2014, climate change in Central America took the shape of a severe drought that plagued the residents of Central America’s dry corridor. In the same year, the U.S. saw an increase in migrants from that region. As the drought persists, high numbers of Central American migrants continue to arrive at the southern border of the U.S., because they cannot sufficiently feed their families. The summer of 2018 included severe drought, and 100,000 Honduran families and two million residents across the Northern Triangle were at risk of malnutrition. The governments of the three Northern Triangle countries entered a state of emergency. The drought was especially destructive to Honduran farmers, many of whom are subsistence farmers living in poverty. Rural Honduran farmers could not easily access the agricultural resources necessary to combat the effects of the drought.
  2. Food Insecurity: In the aftermath of the summer 2018 drought, two million Central Americans were at risk of food insecurity. The region especially suffered from the impact of the 2018 drought as it still had not recovered from droughts that took place from 2014 to 2016. In 2018, Honduras lost 80 percent of its bean and maize crops. Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador lost a total of 281,000 hectares of beans and maize.
  3. The Northern Triangle: Most Central American migrants arriving in the U.S. are from the Northern Triangle. The effects of climate change on the region are becoming increasingly severe. Predictions determine that temperatures there will increase by as much as two degrees by 2050, following increases that have already taken place since 1950. Flooding and prolonged periods of drought accompany the current rise in temperature and will become more severe as temperatures rise. USAID studies predict that some areas of Honduras will see a 60 percent increase in flooding and that Guatemala’s rainfall levels will become dangerously low within the next 10 years. The same studies predict that El Salvador’s coastline will shrink by as much as 28 percent within the next 100 years. One can link the current rise in migration to the effects of climate change in Central America.
  4. Summer 2018 Droughts: The intensity of the summer 2018 droughts can partly explain the size of the 2018 wave of Central American migrants sometimes referred to as the migrant caravan. In rural areas, a lack of irrigation systems made the drought especially disastrous. According to officials from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, crop failure was a fundamental reason for migration from Central America in 2018. Migrants left Central America to escape poverty and gang violence, but they also left to escape the effects of climate change.
  5. Agricultural Reform: USAID initiatives in Central America emphasize agricultural reform. USAID combats the effects of climate change in Central America by providing farmers with what they need to deal with droughts and floods. Thanks to initiatives like Feed the Future, 98.7 thousand Guatemalan agricultural producers implemented new technology and farming techniques in 2017. In the same year, 45,000 Honduran agricultural producers implemented new technology and farming techniques. Feed the Future also provided Honduran farmers with the resources and training needed to allow for increased crop diversity and animal agriculture. Diversity and reduced reliance on crops like corn and beans are vital to maintaining the region’s agricultural economy in the face of climate change.

Climate change in Central America is already causing serious problems and will continue to do so in the future. On a positive note, USAID and others are cooperating with Central American governments to respond to the changes taking place. Countries in the area are already implementing innovative, agriculture-based solutions. The efforts of aid organizations will continue to be vital as the global climate continues to change.

– Emelie Fippin
Photo: Flickr

People Fleeing Central America
Many know Central America for its flourishing biodiversity and near-constant geological activity. This region is comprised of seven countries including Belize, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Panama. Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador are three countries that form the Northern Triangle of Central America (NTCA). Recently, the world is paying attention to the number of people fleeing Central America to surrounding areas like the U.S.

Every year, an estimated 500,000 people flee to Mexico to escape the NTCA. As involuntary witnesses to intense violence and economic instability, hundreds of thousands of citizens of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala choose to make the perilous journey north in hopes of finding safer, more peaceful living conditions. Immigration through the U.S.-Mexico border is not a recent or new development. Migration levels are increasing rapidly each year. Many asylum seekers are women and children searching for a life without senseless violence.

The three countries of the NTCA are extremely dangerous, and all rank within the top 10 for homicide rates and dangerous gang activity. In 2015, El Salvador became the world’s most violent country, rampant with gang-related violence and extortion. Though El Salvador no longer holds this title, high levels of poverty and violence continue to cause a rise in people fleeing Central America.

Poverty in Central America

The NTCA includes three countries that are among the poorest in the western hemisphere. Though Latin America has seen improvement in the distribution of wealth among its citizens, many still face the devastating effects of economic inequality that plagues the region. In 2014, 10 percent of citizens in Latin America held 71 percent of the region’s wealth. As a result, one in four people live in poverty, concentrated in rural areas. The most oppressed of this population tend to be women and indigenous peoples.

Economic migration has long been a factor surrounding discussions on immigration. People often choose to live and work in places with more prosperous economic opportunity. In rural areas of the NTCA, the need for more economic opportunity leads to people fleeing Central America. Sixty percent of people living in rural regions of the NTCA is impoverished.

Unprecedented Levels of Violence

Violence within the NTCA remains a leading cause of migration to the Mexican border. Because of the high poverty level across this region, governments do not have enough funds and are rampant with corruption. Many flee from senseless, violent crimes, including gang activity, kidnapping and brutal homicides, which law enforcement does not always punish.

Gang activity within the NTCA also causes citizens to flee. Women and children are at the highest risk for rape and kidnappings. People commit gender-based violence in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala to coerce or intimidate others. Many children make the trek to Mexico alone because they are desperate for asylum to avoid gang recruitment.

Providing Aid to the NTCA

As witnesses to the traumatic violence raging throughout the NTCA, many people fleeing Central America are in dire need of medical and mental attention. Since 2013, Doctors Without Borders has provided more than 33,000 health consultations to those fleeing from the NTCA. Care includes treatment for victims of sexual abuse and diseases caught along the way.

Additionally, Doctors Without Borders, the International Crisis Group and the U.N. Refugee Agency have made strides urging host countries, like the U.S., to provide protection rather than detaining asylum seekers and sending them back. This strategy would reduce illegal entry and allow host countries to manage the influx of asylum seekers.

– Anna Giffels
Photo: UN

why are more people crossing the border
In early 2019, Congress approved a humanitarian aid plan for migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border. Nevertheless, the political crisis of migrant treatment and their arrival to the U.S. continues. In February 2019, President Donald Trump declared a national emergency to obtain funding for his planned border wall. He has repeatedly called the situation at the U.S. border an invasion. The question remains: why are more people crossing the border?

People should note, however, that the number of border apprehensions dropped by 28 percent in the course of a month. The number decreased from the apprehension of an estimated 120,000 plus people in May 2019 to an estimated 80,000 plus people in June 2019.

In the past, most of the undocumented immigrants found in the U.S. southern border were single men from Mexico. Recently, most immigrants trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border are families coming from countries in Central America’s Northern Triangle, namely Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. These countries have severe instabilities. The number of people from these three nations applying for asylum around the world has increased seven-fold since 2010.

High Murder Rates in the Northern Triangle

High murder rates are a reason why more people have been leaving the Northern Triangle. Murder rates in the area have been considerably higher than in other areas, like the U.S. or Europe. These numbers peak at approximately 108.6 murders per 100,000 inhabitants in El Salvador and 63.8 in Honduras. Residents of Honduras also face extortion as criminals may kill them if they do not pay a war tax.

Many families try to seek asylum in Mexico to escape these murders. Nevertheless, the number of migrants at the Mexican border tell a similar story to that of the U.S. border. The number of deportations from Mexico back to the Northern Triangle has considerably increased between 2014 and 2015.

Poverty and Migration

Another reason for the rise in migrants at the southern border in recent years has been economic imperatives. Most recent migrants hail from impoverished regions such as the western highlands of Guatemala, in search of a life better suited to raising a family.

Everyday life in the area beckons land rights conflicts, environmental instabilities and depressed prices for their crop, which undermines the ability of citizens to make a living for their family. Nearly 70 percent of Honduras’ population lives in poverty. In Guatemala, nearly 60 percent live in poverty.

Gangs and Drug Cartels

In the Northern Triangle, drug cartels and gangs are a part of everyday life and threaten national and personal security. Violent groups often impose informal curfews, make absurd tax demands and recruit youth against their will. After the fight between in Mexican government and former drug boss Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, many other groups moved into the drug trade, leading to the killings of many innocent people in the country. In 2018, the number of people who made claims of credible fear and asked for asylum at the U.S. border skyrocketed to 92,000, compared to 55,000 claims in 2017.

Thousands of immigrants are facing the impossible choice of living in constant fear or seeking asylum, risking the possibility of detainment for indefinite periods or deportation back to their home nations where they risk a violent death.

No More Deaths

Illegal border crossing should not be a death sentence. No More Deaths, or No Más Muertes, is a humanitarian organization based in southern Arizona that is dedicated to stepping up efforts to stop migrant deaths in the desert. The organization works in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands through the civil initiative.

It is crucial for every American citizen to realize that migrants are not entering the United States because they want to, but because they have to. Entering the detention centers at the southern border comes after a perilous journey. Migrants ride trains where gang members demand tolls of upwards of $100 per station. Gang members kidnap more than 20,000 migrants in these situations.

Action is imperative to help people crossing the border as countless lives depend on it. Nevertheless, it is possible for individuals to help. Individuals can volunteer with organizations such as No More Deaths to provide food, advocacy and mapping efforts. They can also use their voice and email Congress through The Borgen Project’s website. Lastly, it is important for all citizens to educate themselves about migrants, their treatment in detention centers and why more people are crossing the border, even when circumstances seem dire.

– Monique Santoso
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Poverty In Albania
Albania, a country located east of the southern tip of Italy that borders Macedonia and Greece, remains one of the poorest countries in Europe. Despite the country’s recent economic growth, employment rates continue to stay low, the education system lacks necessary resources and a significant portion of the population remains below the poverty line. Here are seven shocking facts about poverty in Albania.

7 Shocking Facts About Poverty in Albania

  1. Poverty Rate: Thirty-four percent of Albanians live in poverty. This means they make around $2 to $5.50 per day. The current poverty rate represents a significant increase compared to 2002 when 11 percent of Albanians lived in poverty.
  2. Extreme Poverty Rate: Currently, 5.8 percent of Albanians live in extreme poverty. This means they make less than $1.90 per day. According to the World Bank, the extreme poverty rate of Albanian people has not reduced very much in recent years.
  3. Household Expenditures: The expenditures in 63 percent of Albanian households, or what they need to buy to live comfortably such as food, clothes and toiletries, are 50 percent higher than their income. In other words, over half the population cannot afford half of what it needs to live on a day-to-day basis.
  4. Albanians are Migrating: Due to the unstable political situation in Albania, the business economy is weakening, and thus, poverty is deepening. Many Albanians doubt their leaders and are looking for better opportunities regarding living conditions and employment, so many are departing the country. This number of departing citizens has grown from 44 percent in 2007 to 52 percent in 2018.
  5. The Albanian Unemployment Rate: The unemployment rate in Albania is 28.7 percent. Women make up the majority of this population which results from many factors including poor social status in the family, lack of education and limited access to jobs due to the fact that most women must maintain the house and take care of the children. However, Oxfam, an international nonprofit, works to change women’s social status in Albania by educating women about the economy as well as helping women become actors of change and decision-making.
  6. Children in Albania: One-third of the total population living in poverty in Albania, or 120,000 of those citizens, are children. Approximately 12 percent of these children have no other choice but to work in order to help their families survive. Because of this, these children lose the opportunity to obtain an education. Humanium is an organization that works to end violations of children’s rights across the world. It does so by raising awareness, providing legal assistance for children whose rights have suffered violation and supporting local projects that help children.
  7. Social Allowance: Eighty thousand households in Albania rely on a social allowance. This means they receive 8,000 lek a month from their government so that they can afford basic needs such as food and clothing. One lek is equivalent to $0.0092 U.S.

Despite the barriers, there are organizations working to end poverty in Albania such as the Zakat Foundation of America. This nonprofit is in Chicago and its mission statement is as follows: “We foster charitable giving to alleviate the immediate needs of poor communities and to establish long-term development projects that ensure individual and community growth.” The foundation does so by building schools, orphanages and health clinics within these poor communities. The organization also provides food and fresh meat to the poor and brings relief during and after disasters.

– Emily Turner
Photo: Flickr

Pros of Immigration

While many view immigration as a cultural crisis, the pros of immigration are significant. Immigration is a point of contention as immigrants change the face of a population and bring their own culture with them. Moreover, immigrants receive criticism if they do not fully integrate, by not speaking the country’s primary language. Some people simply feel there’s no room for immigrants. They fear their jobs will be taken or undercut by the low wages some immigrants are willing to work for.

In spite of these concerns, it is undeniable that immigrants infuse much needed vitality into the economy. They build businesses, create jobs and bring new perspectives. Most importantly, welcoming immigrants supports and promotes an international standard of human rights. Everyone should be able to settle somewhere safe, healthy and stable—especially if their native country is not so.

Below is an immigration case study of sorts, demonstrating the economic benefits of immigration in Japan, the U.S., and Western Europe.

Japan

Plagued by an aging population and declining birth rates, immigration provides Japan with a new source of young workers. The Japanese Health Ministry predicts that by 2060, the country’s population will fall to 86.74 million. This is a 40 million decrease since 2010. Currently, 20 percent of Japan’s population is over 65 years old. As a result, this burdens Japan’s shrinking workforce with the funds for their pensions and healthcare. But immigration into Japan ensures the nation’s economy can maintain itself as people retire.

Japan is historically unwelcoming to immigrants, believing peace and harmony to be rooted in homogeneity. As such, the nation’s immigration policy reflects this. Japan only allows a small number of highly skilled workers into the country. This policy has been in place since 1988 to combat labor shortages. However, this is no longer enough to combat Japan’s worsening economy. In 2018, labor shortages in the nation were the highest they had been in 40 years.

However, the pros of immigration in Japan are clear. Without it, Japan faces an incredibly insecure economic future. With no sign of population growth, the nation’s perpetually shrinking workforce will become unable to support its retired citizens. However, immigrants can round out the workforce in Japan. And they can neutralize any economic woes the nation might face in the future by preventing labor shortages.

USA

The cultural and economic contributions immigrants have made to America are vast, overwhelmingly advantageous and long-lasting.

A study done by economists at Harvard, Yale and the London School of Economics found US counties that accepted more immigrants between 1860 and 1920 are doing better today as a result. These counties have significantly higher incomes, higher educational achievement, less poverty and lower unemployment because immigrants provided the low-skilled labor needed to support rapid industrialization. Undeniably, immigrants have always and still continue to increase economic growth in America.

Similarly, immigrants in the U.S. have been integral to innovation and entrepreneurship. Half of all startups in America worth over a billion dollars have been founded by immigrants. Eleven of these startups employ more than 17,000 people in the U.S. Some of these companies, such as Uber and WeWork, have significantly changed American culture. They modify the way Americans live their daily lives. Therefore, the pros of immigration in the U.S. are grounded in the diversity of thought brought by immigrants, necessary to further American innovation and economic growth.

Western Europe

Like Japan, Western Europe is battling an aging population and declining birth rates. Fertility rates are expected to hit zero in the next decade. Consequently, this region may not be able to sustain its expansive social welfare programs as its workforce shrinks and retired populations grow. In Germany, the median age is 47.1 years, the oldest in Western Europe. This is only slightly younger than Japan’s 47.3 years. Besides convincing its native populations to have more children, immigration is their only alternative.

Immigration into Western Europe is an undeniable win for both the immigrants and the host countries. Many new immigrants in Western Europe have escaped unstable regimes, religious persecution, and economic downturn in North African and Middle Eastern countries. Thus, immigrants give the region a younger workforce that is able to sustain the region’s expensive social benefits. In return, Western Europe provides immigrants with jobs, stability, and a safe place to live.

While still a very divisive topic, the pros of immigration lie in its plethora of economic benefits. It is undeniable that immigration has always been the driver of economic growth, despite all of the criticism. Immigration provides immigrants with an alternative to oppressive regimes and other instability, of course. And the pros of immigration for nations absolutely outweigh the cons.

Jillian Baxter
Photo: Pixabay