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

Life expectancy in Mexico
Before jumping into this discussion about life expectancy in Mexico, it seems important to explain the importance of measuring life expectancy when attempting to solve the problem of global poverty. Life expectancy, just like malnutrition and infant mortality statistics, shows how well a certain country is living.

If you notice that a country has high life expectancy rates while malnutrition rates are low, one can assume said country has beneficial living conditions and most likely, low poverty rates. From certain facts about life expectancy in Mexico, one will not be able to the whole story about living conditions and poverty in Mexico but will be able to gain some insight on how do Mexicans live.

Top 10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Mexico

  1. Mexico’s life expectancy in 2018 was at 77.5 years, up from 76.9 in 2015. Mexico’s overall growth in average life expectancy increases by 0.24 percent annually. As a middle-class country that is still dealing with cases of extreme poverty and violence, Mexico scores much better than the global average life expectancy of 72 years. However, much work still needs to be done to improve living conditions to ensure higher life expectancy in Mexico.
  2. Between 2005 and 2015, average life expectancy in Mexico actually declined. Life expectancy in the country was 77.8 years for women and 72.6 for men in 2005, but by 2015 the figures decreased to 77.6 for women and 71.9 for men. This is in stark contrast to most of the world where life expectancies are rapidly increasing elsewhere. According to the National Population Council (CONAPO) report, recent fluctuations in life expectancy are a reflection of changes in mortality levels due to the increase in older adults and deaths related to diabetes mellitus and violent causes.
  3. There is a noticeable gap between life expectancies based on the various regions in Mexico. For example, in 2015, Mexico City was the region with the highest life expectancy at 76.2, while Guerrero had the lowest life expectancy at 72.7.
  4. Life expectancy in Mexico is predicted to increase to 79 years by 2050. The gap between the highest life expectancies in a state and the lowest is supposed to shrink as well from the 3.5 years in 2015 to 1.7 years in 2050.
  5. It is predicted by the Lancet, that because of United States’ stagnancy in life expectancy, as well as increases of this category by Mexico, the two countries will be on par with each other in life expectancy by 2030. It should be noted that this comparison was based on women’s life expectancies in these two countries.
  6. Heart disease, kidney disease and diabetes, in that order, are the biggest killers in Mexico. However, from 2007 to 2017, deadly interpersonal violence skyrocketed 215 percent to become Mexico’s fourth biggest killer of people.
  7. Diabetes is such an epidemic in Mexico that in 2017 Mexico declared a national emergency to combat this disease and to provide support and better care for the 13 million Mexicans that currently have diabetes. The country has tried to prevent it with a soda tax and a public awareness campaign. Among the 35 countries that make up the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Mexico accounts for the most hospitalizations related to diabetes.
  8. Before 2007, around 10,000 people were murdered each year in Mexico. However, since the start of the war on drug trafficking in Mexico, homicide rates have increased. In 2018, a new record was set as 28,816 people were murdered. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who took office in December 2018, has promised to “calm” the country after 12 years of a militarized crackdown on drug-related organized crime.
  9. The United States gives $290 million a year to Mexico in foreign aid and nearly three-quarters of that money goes to counternarcotics programs. The drug wars in Mexico are very bloody and obviously create conditions that are violent and unsafe. It is not a bad decision to fund the solving of the violent drug problem in Mexico, but the U.S. would undoubtedly benefit in putting more money into programs that would better the living conditions in Mexico directly. Only $500,000 of the funds went to emergency response. Very little money, if any, is given to Mexico to create better water access and 21st-century technology that can increase life expectancy in Mexico.
  10. The infant mortality rate in Mexico is 11.60 deaths per 1,000 births. This statistic places Mexico in a better ranking than countries like Brazil, Saudi Arabia and China. However, Mexico’s rate is still double than that of the United States. 

To be certain, Mexico, just like every country on this Earth, can do better in terms of creating the conditions to make life expectancy rise, as well as making poverty fall. To those that may not know much about Mexico’s performance in the eradication of poverty and its symptoms, this fact sheet hopefully gave insight into what life might currently be like in this Central American country and what can be improved.

Kurt Thiele

Photo: Flickr

Eight Facts To Know about Mexican Immigration
The topic of immigration is inescapable in contemporary American politics. Political figures, news sources, late-night TV shows, other media outlets- it seems this topic is constantly being talked about. This coverage has created a flood of information about immigration in the United States, particularly about immigration from Mexico. But not all of this information is accurate. In the text below, eight facts about Mexican immigration are presented in an attempt to shed a light on this topic.

Eight Facts About Mexican Immigration

  1. Most unauthorized immigrants in the United States actually entered the country legally and have just overstayed their temporary visas. For the seventh year in a row, the number of people who have overstayed visas is far greater than the number who illegally crossed the Southern border. In addition, in 2017, undocumented immigrants from Mexico accounted for less than half of the undocumented population in the United States.
  2. Many immigrants crossing the United States’ Southern border are from Central America, not Mexico. The majority of the migrants from Central America come from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
  3. Immigrants from Mexico and Central America are typically fleeing poverty, violence and crime as approximately 44 percent of Mexicans, 60.9 percent of Hondurans, 59.3 percent of Guatemalans and 38.2 percent of Salvadorans live beneath the poverty line. El Salvador also has one of the highest homicide rates in the world. Gang violence, drug trafficking and political corruption are prevalent in these nations.
  4. Mexican immigration into the United States has actually been declining since the mid-2000s, and so has the number of apprehensions at the Southern border.
  5. In the 2006 fiscal year, more than one million immigrants were apprehended at the Southern border. In the 2017 fiscal year, this number was 303,916. This decline in migration is a result of numerous factors. First, the decrease in labor demand in sectors that employ the majority of Mexican immigrants, such as construction, is a major contributor to this decline. With fewer jobs available, fewer Mexicans have immigrated to the U.S. and many have returned to Mexico. This decrease in jobs was in part due to the recession in the late 2000s. The second cause of decreasing emigration is the improvement in the Mexican economy. In the 1980s, Mexico was in a deep economic crisis, but since the late 1990s, the country has experienced economic stability and modest growth.
  6. Though the standard of living for most Mexican families has improved, a majority of Mexicans are not optimistic about the economy and the direction of the country. One-third of them would still migrate to the U.S.
  7. Demographic changes in Mexico’s population have also contributed to decreased emigration. Drastically declining fertility rates have decreased the number of people entering the workforce each year, leading to an increase in labor demand and wages. In addition, many Mexican immigrants are fathers searching for work to support their families. Lower birth rates have reduced the size of Mexican families, lessening the financial burden on parents and making it possible for fathers to support their families without emigrating to the U.S.
  8. The United States’ increased border enforcement in the past two decades has also lowered the Mexican immigration rate. U.S. Border Patrol funding has skyrocketed since 1992, which has enabled the agency to increase its staff by more than 400 percent. However, this increase in border enforcement predated the decline in migration by more than 10 years, suggesting that this is not the main cause of decreasing immigration.

Poverty, violence, crime and corruption are the root causes of immigration from Mexico and Central America into the United States. International cooperation to fund development and alleviate global poverty addresses these root causes and is key to reducing immigration. The United Nations stresses the importance of global cooperation in addressing international immigration and the Council of Foreign Relations asserts that large-scale migration can be managed only with a global governance framework.

With the increased life standard in Mexico and more opportunities in the country, Mexican immigration to the United States can be reduced in a less painful way. Reducing immigration is important not because immigration is inherently bad, but because people should not have to flee their homes to have a safe, financially stable life. They should have the opportunity to immigrate to another country if they choose, but should also be able to lead a safe, stable, prosperous life in their home country.

– Laura Turner
Photo: Flickr

Is there any Hope that Andrés Manuel López Obrador Can Stem the Violence in Mexico?
Statistics show that in May 2018, one person was killed in Mexico every 15 minutes. This number is record-breaking for the country, proving that 2018 will turn out to be even more violent than 2017, the year that saw the highest rates of violence in Mexico in the last two decades.

New President, New Hope

Mexico recently elected a new president, democratic socialist Andrés Manuel López Obrador (popularly known as AMLO). He officially assumed office on December 1 and his victory has raised great hopes among the millions of poor and struggling citizens of the country.

Among other goals that he committed himself to, such as expanding health care, strengthening the education system and helping small-time farmers, AMLO plans to stem cartel violence in Mexico. When he was voted, AMLO told his gathered supporters: “This is a historic day. We represent the possibility of a real change, of a transformation.”

During his victory speech, AMLO made clear right away one crucial aspect of the transformation he was seeking. “The failed crime and violence strategy will change.”

AMLO inherited the presidential office from Enrique Peña Nieto and a bloody war on drug cartels that has lasted over a decade and taken more than 150,000 lives.

But unlike his predecessor, AMLO does not favor using a military strategy to target the cartels. In May conference, he stated that his opponents think everything can be resolved by force.

So, what’s the new President’s alternative? His strategies of stemming the cartel violence in Mexico are presented below.

Look at the Root of the Problem

AMLO said that he wants to tackle the social problems that cause people to become involved in organized crime and drug cartels in the first place. “More than through the use of force, we will tend to the causes that give rise to insecurity and violence,” he promises.

While on the campaign trail, AMLO used slogans like “Abrazos, no balazos” (hugs, not gunshots) and “Becarios sí, sicarios no” (scholars yes, killers no), to highlight his pacifist platform.

AMLO plans to contact human rights groups, religious leaders and the United Nations to start drafting a new plan for combatting the drug war.

He plans to invest in education and eradicate the poverty in the country that is the root of the problem.

Decriminalization

AMLO has a long-term goal of re-writing drug laws to decriminalize recreational use of marijuana. He is considering making it legal to using opium for medicinal reasons.

Former Supreme Court Justice Olga Sánchez Cordero, who is AMLO’S proposed interior minister, said that poppy production could be legalized to supply the national pharmaceutical company.

All of this could take away the main sources of income for Mexico’s cartels, whose profits come almost mostly from trafficking illegal drugs.

Transitional Justice

The new president is also interested in substituting transitional justice for punitive sentencing and imprisonment. The United Nations defines transitional justice as the full range of processes and mechanisms associated with a society’s attempt to come to terms with a legacy of large-scale past abuses, in order to ensure accountability, serve justice and achieve reconciliation.

Transitional justice has been used in Rwanda, for example, as of way of rebuilding from the 1994 genocide. Now, AMLO’s administration is looking to transitional justice for guidance in creating peace in Mexico.

Some aspects of transitional justice that AMLO wants to employ are truth commissions and giving reparations to victims’ family members. Reparations could come in the form of money, work or education.

One of AMLO’s most controversial ideas is giving partial amnesty to those involved in drug gangs. This amnesty would, however, only apply to non-violent offenders.

Instead of sending them to prison, he sees social work and public service as viable alternatives that could be more effective long-term because this would remove the primary motivations that young people have for joining the drug gangs.

The members of drug cartels eligible for amnesty plans are primarily those whose jobs were planting drugs, serving as lookouts or working as drug mules.

He is not proposing to grant amnesty to those directly involved in the more than 150,000 killings that threaten to destabilize the country entirely.

Andrés Manuel López Obrador plans to stem cartel violence in Mexico. He espouses the lofty goal of eradicating violence by the middle of his first 6-year term in office.

His approach is so different and innovative than those of his predecessors that it might just work. The people of Mexico and the whole world will soon find out if this will actually work.

– Evann Orleck-Jetter

Photo: Flickr

Water Crisis in Mexico
Mexico City is facing a water crisis, with one in five citizens lacking access to reliable tap water. Many people only receive water once a week from a truck they must pay to deliver the water to the designated area and even then they have to wait in line for hours, sometimes overnight, out of fear the truck will run out of the water.

The poorest areas are not serviced by these expensive trucks and individuals must walk long distances to get water for their families. Mexico City’s water crisis is worsening as temperatures increase, droughts get longer and more frequent, aquifer water levels continue to drop and a lack of funds prevents solutions from being implemented.

However, while many people in the city lack clean water, the city also has a problem with floodings. This represents the paradox of water crisis in Mexico.

Water Sources in the City

A significant portion of the city’s water comes from underground aquifers. Water-impervious surfaces such as concrete and asphalt prevent water from filtering through the ground to the depleted aquifers. Mexico City continues to draw water from this finite resource while increased development inhibits rainwater from replenishing the water level, raising concerns about the future availability of water.

Because local water sources are insufficient to supply Mexico City’s large population of 21 million, about 40 percent of water is brought into the city from remote locations. There are over 8,000 miles of pipes designed to transport this water. Forty percent of the water that needs to be supplied is lost as a result of leaking pipes or theft. Even with these supplementary water sources, Mexico City struggles to consistently supply all its citizens with tap water. This problem is exacerbated by a lack of infrastructure designed at capturing rainwater and recycling waste water.

The Paradox of Water Crisis in Mexico

The paradox of Mexico City’s water crisis is that the same population facing a water shortage is also plagued with periodic flooding. Situated 1.5 miles above the sea level, the city was originally settled by the Aztecs in the 14th century on an island in the middle of a system of lakes. As the population grew, some of these lakes were filled, and eventually, the Aztecs were conquered by the Spanish and any remaining lakes were drained.

In addition, as the aquifers are depleted to supply the city with water, the ground compresses and the city sinks up to nine inches a year in some regions. This combination makes Mexico City prone to flooding during summer storms.

Solutions to the Problem

In order to address this problem, multiple projects have been proposed. Parks have been designed in key areas to allow rainwater to seep into the ground and replenish the aquifer while minimizing flood risk. Other efforts focus on reducing the impact of development and improving wastewater management to increase local water availability. For example, some roadways built on top of what used to be river beds have been altered to incorporate linear parks aimed at treating runoff.

Sustainable projects like these are increasingly common as the future of water availability becomes a greater concern. However, to truly address Mexico City’s water crisis the government will have to significantly invest in new infrastructure aimed at collecting rainwater and recycling waste water. Relying on a depleted aquifer and water imported from remote sources is not a long-term solution and locals will continue to suffer the paradox of water crisis in Mexico, the situation in which they lack access to reliable water sources while also being at risk of debilitating floods.

– Georgia Orenstein
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts about Girls’ Education in Mexico
Educating girls is known to boost the economy and social development indicators. When a girl is more educated, she is more likely to have fewer children, work full-time, have an increased life expectancy and her children are less likely to die young. In developing countries like Mexico, issues like these are of the utmost importance for the development of the country. In the text below, top 10 facts about girls’ education in Mexico are presented.

Top 10 Facts about Girls’ Education in Mexico

  1. Mexico mandates free primary and secondary education for children. After secondary school, students can choose between college and technical school. Women tend to outnumber men in technical schools.
  2. Mexican girls who live in rural areas tend to be less educated than their male counterparts. This is because of the prevalence of poverty, a marked lack of access to health care and social services and inadequate infrastructure provisions such as roads, water systems and telephone services. Parents might also be more reluctant to educate their daughters due to the cultural priority placed on getting married.
  3. Many girls in Mexico get married young, leading them to have many children instead of staying in school. The BBC reported that more than 320,000 girls between the ages of 12 and 17 were cohabiting with a man. More than 80 percent of these girls who were formally married left school. More than 90 percent of those who lived informally with the man dropped out of school.
  4. Although the literacy rate for women between the ages of 15 and 24 years old is 98.5 percent, women still overwhelmingly carry the burden of household chores and looking after children instead of pursuing higher education or advancing in their careers. Most girls drop out of school and become housewives instead of being incorporated into the workforce.
  5. Indigenous girls in Mexico face perhaps the most barriers to the attainment of even advanced primary level education. The poverty of many indigenous families conditions them to view their daughters, let alone their education, as a heavy economic burden. Mayan girls usually help with their parents’ income through agricultural work and household chores. Thus, they must drop out of school in the early stages.
  6. Although there are scholarships and programs to alleviate the cost of their daughters’ educations, many parents aren’t aware of them. There is a clear informational asymmetry regarding this question. Even if the parents did know of the existence of these programs and scholarships, they would not know how to apply for them.
  7. Indigenous girls also face a language barrier when learning the national curriculum. For example, girls from the Yucatan Maya community speak the Mayan language but are taught in Spanish. For this reason, they participate minimally in class and are often overlooked by teachers.
  8. Some Mayan girls report facing discrimination from their teachers and peers at school that obviously hinders their education. During interviews researchers conducted with some Mayan girls, they expressed feeling humiliated and discouraged when their classmates and even teachers called them derogatory names related to being darker-skinned or having trouble speaking Spanish.
  9. Rural Mexican girls have difficulty getting to school safely because of how remote their villages are. Unpredictable transportation often means walking long distances in desolate areas, leaving girls exposed to threats of physical or sexual violence on the roads.
  10. Mexico is a member of the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI). This initiative is committed to narrowing the gender gap in education through the enhanced focus on marginalized and excluded groups, reduction, or in best case elimination, of school-related gender violence and improved learning outcomes for girls.

Mexico still has a long way to go before it eliminates the drastic gender gap in education, particularly for rural and indigenous women. However, with efforts such as the UNGEI, the situation appears hopeful and is changing for the better.

– Maneesha Khalae
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts about Living Conditions In MexicoThe Pew Research Center reported that the number of unauthorized immigrants coming into the U.S. has stabilized at the number around 11 million, with 55 percent of immigrants coming from Mexico. In recent months, several news outlets have reported on numerous deportations and cases of illegal immigration throughout the U.S. What kind of living conditions do the Mexican people endure in Mexico if they feel that their only chance for a better life is to flee to the U.S.? More than 400,000 people were deported back to Mexico in 2016 alone. These top 10 facts about living conditions in Mexico shed light on the conditions that those returning encounter.

Top 10 Facts about Living Conditions in Mexico

  1. There have been major strides to reduce Mexico’s poverty rate over the years. One contributing factor to the reduction of poverty has been the program Prospera that gives struggling mothers an incentive to send their children to school and provide their children with regular health screenings. However, even with programs like this one, 43.6 percent of Mexico’s population still lives in poverty.
  2. Many Mexican households resort to meals consisting of rice and beans. They are cheap, easily accessible and don’t have a short shelf-life. The National Health and Nutrition Survey conducted in 2012 revealed that as a result of poor diet, Mexican families suffer a nutritional imbalance that leads to a risk of obesity and malnutrition.
  3. Mexico has various food assistance programs for families in need. One such program is Liconsa that provides milk to families with children and to those living under the national poverty line. A study conducted comparing food assistance programs in Mexico to those in the U.S. found that food stamps can comprise half of a household’s income in the U.S., while urban programs in Mexico make up only for 3.8 percent of a family’s income.
  4. Mexico is home to some of the worlds’ most active and dangerous drug cartels. Mexico’s war on drugs has claimed the lives of 245,999 citizens from 2007 through March 2018. The year 2017 saw the highest homicide number with over 29,000 victims.
  5. Sixty-one percent of the working population in Mexico has paying jobs and this number is low considering the national employment average is 67 percent. However, those that have jobs are expected to work longer hours to afford the costs of living. Thirty percent of Mexico’s workforce has to work 50 hours or more per week to survive, and this is the reason why it is more convenient for many to work elsewhere and send money back home.
  6. Mexico’s average household income peaked at $4,169 per year in 2008. Over the last ten years, there has been a sharp decline in yearly income per household in Mexico. In 2016, Mexican households were averaging a mere $2,718 per year. In order to afford the bare minimum costs of living in Mexico, one would need to be making at least $3,193 a year.
  7. Mexico was once home to one of the world’s worst slums, Ciudad Neza, home to 1.2 million people in 2016. Ciudad Neza has been transformed into a working community that now has access to clean water and sewage systems. It is a vast improvement from the make-shift squabbles with no electricity that people used to live in. It is by no means perfect and still draws in a great deal of crime, but progress has been made giving hope to many that still live without basic necessities.
  8. At less than $4 a day, Mexico holds one of Latin America’s lowest minimum wages. Income inequality can be credited to Mexico’s wage restriction policies that attracted foreign businesses to use Mexican workers as a cheap form of labor. State taxes have also played a significant role in keeping families in poverty by not taxing its citizens based on their income level.
  9. As of 2004, Mexico has ensured that a majority of its citizens receive health care through a universal health care plan. Before its establishment, only half of the working population were covered under their employers’ health insurance. Since its formation, Seguro Popular (health coverage for all in Mexico) has gone from supporting 3.1 million people to supporting 55.6 million people.
  10. Many changes have been made to Mexico’s water supply and access to proper sanitation facilities. Ninety-six percent of people in Mexico had access to clean drinking water in 2015, a vast improvement from 82.3 percent in 1990. From 1998 to 2005, the Mexican government oversaw the expansion of its Water and Sanitation for Rural Communities program aiding 4.8 million people with clean water and sanitation.

While there is still more to accomplish, Mexico has set forth legislation and policies that have greatly improved the quality of life for many of its citizens.

In July 2018, the Mexican people elected Andrés Manuel López Obrador as their next president. In addressing the problem of poverty in Mexico, Obrador has promised to cut the salaries of higher paid government workers to support education for the children of Mexico and pensions for the elderly. With new leadership and fresh ideas comes promised change, and stable living conditions for all of Mexico might be on the horizon.

– Catherine Wilson
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in America
The United States (U.S.) is home to millions of people and considered one of the most developed countries in the world. However, hunger in the U.S. still remains a significant problem.

The National Commission on Hunger officially defines hunger as “a situation in which a member of a household does not have enough money to provide for all the needs of the family.” Families that suffer from hunger in the U.S. are struggling through many other disadvantages that come from food insecurity.

10 Facts About Hunger in America

  1. Statistically, about one in six people in the U.S.A. face hunger as one of the biggest concerns in life. For children, more than 20 percent are at risk of hunger and malnutrition. This means that about 40 million people struggle with hunger in the U.S. and 12 million children are unable to get one decent meal a day.
  2. The United States Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as the lack of access to enough food to feed the immediate family at all times. In 2013, it was found that 17.5 million households in the U.S. were food insecure. This means that these people go day-to-day without an actual meal throughout the day.
  3. The dilemma of those with food insecurity does not stop with just choosing how to supply food. A 2014 study by Feeding America found that its members are always conflicted about what to spend their money on. This was because people have a limited amount of resources yet have other priorities in life. The study found that 69 percent of the members had to choose between food and utilities, 67 percent had to choose between food and transportation costs and 66 percent had to choose between food and medical care.
  4. Lack of nutritional food increases the number of health problems because the body is unable to protect and nurture the person. Food insecurity can lead to type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and obesity because people with food insecurity are usually without a lot of savings, and so if they had the chance to purchase and consume unhealthy food such as fast food, they would take it.
  5. Children who are unable to acquire the necessary nutrition to develop and grow properly are prone to more problems. For example, children who are deprived of food experience developmental impairments such as language and motor skills. Such impairments can also lead to children struggling in school because they are more likely to repeat a grade and display behavioral problems.
  6. Children who come from households with food insecurity can participate in school lunch programs. In a typical school day, it was found that around 70.5 percent of enrolled students receive free or reduced-price lunches through the National School Lunch Program.
  7. With 42.3 million people from the U.S. currently partaking in the program, it is evident that the people who use this program the most are those who are below the poverty line. With about 59 percent of households with food insecurity participating in federal nutrition assistance programs, these programs serve as one of the best available for those with hunger in the United States of America.
  8. One of the United States’ nutritional programs is called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which helps its participants with the cost of buying food. This aid can be done through food stamps or funds sent to those in need. In the fiscal year of 2015, an average SNAP recipient received about $4.23 a day to use for food. While this may not seem much, it is still more than what these individuals have on a daily basis, which makes a difference. Eighty-three percent of SNAP households have incomes below the poverty line — every cent counts in trying to alleviate their food insecurity.
  9. Another federal program is the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). As of 2014, WIC serves about 6.4 million infants and children under five, and 2 million women.
  10. Hunger in the U.S. prevails not because of the lack of food, but rather because some people are unable to lift themselves out of poverty and food insecurity due to the unequal income distribution. It is a true struggle to provide anything for a family without funds, so the root of the problem comes from the lack of livable income and employment opportunities.

Hunger in the U.S.

For those with the resources and means, hunger can be eliminated with a quick trip to the grocery store; however, it must be understood that is not the way of life for many citizens living among us. These facts about hunger in the U.S. show that even in developed countries, there is still a long way to go until no one suffers the pain of poverty and food insecurity.

-Jenny S Park
Photo: Flickr

Addressing the Root Causes of Emigration from MexicoEarlier this year, the United States encountered a humanitarian crisis at the border with Mexico that referred to the separation of immigrant parents and children. This is one of many tactics for deterring migrants from entering the country. However, this does not address the root causes of emigration from Mexico. People who live in danger and lack economic opportunity seek a better life outside their home country. Another motive for crossing the border is to participate in the United States’ drug trade. Tackling such issues can help alleviate poverty in Mexico and can benefit the United States, too.

The connection between criminal and migrations

Organized crime has been on the rise in Mexico. Since 2006, over 109,000 citizens have been victims to homicides. As instances of murders increase, so does the rate of migration.

Mexico is the top supplier of illegal substances to the United States. Methamphetamine-induced seizures more than tripled between 2010 and 2015 along the U.S. southern border. Given this strong tie between the two countries, efforts to minimize drug transport have only resulted in other types of criminal activities. Smugglers found new opportunities with human trafficking that encourages kidnapping other immigrants at the border.

Central American leaders meeting

Much can be learned from the 2014 meeting held between the presidents of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and the United States. Actions that they proposed were similar to the Marshall Plan, which rebuilt Europe after the World War II. President of Guatemala, Otto Perez Molina, increased efforts to improve education and confiscate weapons used in the drug trade. He also bolstered the revenue for public services. President Juan Orlando Hernandez of Honduras worked to limit business conducted by drug sellers as well as improve the country’s judicial system.

They said the United States focused too much attention on its own national security rather than sending much-needed funds to Central America. At this meeting, they stressed the importance of economic reform and collaboration among countries. Such insight can also help address the root causes of emigration from Mexico.

The United States would benefit from providing aid to Mexico’s economic situation and tackling organized crime within their Government. Vocational training in Mexico can ensure that workers entering the U.S. have valuable skills to contribute to job markets. Plus, it helps immigrants find employment and adjust to living in a new country. Certain areas of the Government of Mexico have been corrupted by acts of violence toward journalists and human rights defenders. It would be in the United States’ best interest to encourage transparency and due justice in Mexico, especially since they share a border.

The United States investments in Mexico

In response to such conflict, the Merida Initiative gave $2.8 billion to improve Mexico’s criminal justice system. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly met with representatives from Mexico to discuss plans for disrupting the businesses of criminal organizations. USAID gave $87 million so that judicial workers could be more qualified to handle court cases. Some of the states receiving those funds experienced a 25 percent reduction of pretrial detention. Since kidnappings are sadly a common occurrence, over $590 million was invested by the U.S. in aircraft that patrol the flow of emigration from Mexico. Part of that money also goes toward forensic equipment to lower Mexico’s impunity rate.

To discourage drug-related transactions between the countries, Mexico has imposed a limit on how many U.S. dollars can be transferred across the border. Additionally, more than 10,000 schools are teaching a lawful culture. They’re engaging youth in after-school activities to deter them from the drug industry and violence. Out of 9,000 surveyed youth who did these activities, 70 percent either remained in school or sought employment.

Some family members are sent to the U.S. for employment because of economic instability within Mexico. It provides different sources of income in case someone’s job can’t generate enough to support the family. For instance, if an entire family worked in the farming industry, there is no market stability. Increasing youth employment offers security and results in less migration.

Further research about how foreign aid benefits each sector can help the United States maximize their impact. That way, funding goes where needed most. But help from the U.S. isn’t about making people content to stay in Mexico. Reducing poverty can make sure immigrants enter the United States for reasons less dire than seeking asylum. Addressing the root causes of emigration from Mexico will return in the form of national security and economic opportunity.

– Sabrina Dubbert
Photo: Flickr

MexicoRecently, immigration has been at the forefront of political controversy given its potential for economic impact on both nations. The underlying economics of U.S.-Mexico immigration offers a glimpse into the roots of the issue and how it is being addressed today.

Escaping Drug Activity

Currently, a great deal of the migrants come from economically and politically troubled states where a great deal of blame is directed at drug organizations battled by federal governments. The poorer states tend to have a disproportionate amount of drug-related activity, which can bottleneck growth to the drug-elite in the states.

Take, for example, Michoacán. The state is a leader in the most migrants sent to the United States and has also been noted as one of United States’ five states to avoid when traveling in Mexico. While the state is 15th in GDP, it accounts for 57 percent of Mexico’s ‘very poor’ population.

Seeking Economic Stability

Drug activity, however, is only a part of the problem. While job prospects are available, the pay rate is very low. Unemployment sits around the three percent mark, but the minimum wage rate is just below five dollars. The high opportunity cost of those working in cartels serves as a major factor in why many may join. For others, crossing the borders to the north is a better option.

Of the 50 states, California receives the most of the legal and illegal immigration from Mexico (37 percent). Consequently, the state and private organizations have taken significant measures to try and remedy underlying economic stressors and ensure smooth transitions for immigrants in the U.S.

Decrease in Emigration

Over the years, factors in the economics of U.S.-Mexico immigration have shifted. Although there is increased media coverage, emigration from Mexico has actually decreased. Since 2008, the number dropped from 6.4 per 1000 residents to 3.3 and has continued to fluctuate around the number.

Part of the reason is that conditions in the United States, while better, are not easy to access. Stanford scholars at the university’s Immigration Policy Lab found that a high cost of naturalization actually prevents low-income immigrants from becoming citizens. The fee to apply for citizenship in the United States is $725, a steep price for numerous immigrants.

Outside Aid

To address the economic issues in Mexico, Mexican organizations such as ProMéxico have tried to change the image globally by attracting foreign investment. At the core of its goals is the belief of “obeying the principle of the common good and contributing to sustainable development.” As the organization develops over the next few years, it hopes to expand its reach and deepen its impact.

Similarly, American initiatives have followed suit. LatinSF is a public-private partnership between the San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development and the San Francisco Center for Economic Development that works to “promote business and trade between San Francisco and the Latin American region.”

Starting a formal connection between San Francisco and the Latin American region is key for mutual development. This effort helps individuals working in Mexico and provides an opportunity for immigrants arriving in the United States.

Academic and Technological Influence

Once immigrants are in the United States and settle in states like California, local universities pitch in. UC Berkeley and Stanford University each have their own Immigration Law Clinics which offer “law assistance to economically disadvantaged immigrants.”

The clinics help prep immigrants, regardless of immigration status, with interviewing, document filing and other legal matters. Private organizations such as the ACLU and Immigrant Legal Resource Center have contributed in the same way as well.

The issue is not just being addressed by the legal field. Studies conducted at UC Berkeley have led to new developments such as an app that recognizes immigrant concentrations and government funds that are not being allocated to the correct locations.

By correcting spatial differences, Jasmin Slootjes, executive director of the Interdisciplinary Migration Initiative, notes that the initiative is “providing local officials with the facts about immigrant communities and their service needs.”

Unweaving the Complex Economics of U.S.-Mexico Immigration

The immigration issue is undoubtedly complex. It is important to remember, however, that the underlying economic factors are the first steps to resolving the issue.

Addressing the problem will require the continued effort of both proactive organizations like ProMéxico and universities that help immigrants acclimate to a new world, and such combined efforts should make a world of impact.

Mrinal Singh
Photo: Flickr