Child Refugees in MexicoIn recent years, Mexico has become an increasingly significant place of asylum. More than 70,000 refugees have submitted asylum applications in 2019, and despite an initial drop in applications in 2020 due to the pandemic, COVID-19 claims for asylum in December 2020 hit a record high. The well-being of child refugees in Mexico is of particular concern.

Child Refugees in Mexico

People are arriving in Mexico from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Venezuela in search of safety, local integration, Mexican residency and a pathway to U.S. citizenship. In 2020, one in five refugees were children. With such alarming demographics, it has been essential for Mexico to address its overwhelming influx of asylum-seekers and find solutions to protect those vulnerable, especially children.

COVID-19 has heightened poverty among child migrants. Child refugees in Mexico are escaping forced recruitment, gang violence and crime that is a daily reality in their Central American countries. This has resulted in displacement, food scarcity and poverty. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, levels of insecurity amongst these children have only increased, with about 5,000 children (60% unaccompanied) returning to El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico.

COVID-19 has devastated children and families as extended lockdowns, school closures, stalled essential economic activities, neglected migrant reparations and rising violence has escalated vulnerability. Children seeking asylum are most affected by the virus due to the lack of access to safe water, sanitation and other essential services. Restricted access to international protection and regular migration pathways are other obstacles they are facing as they search for safety.

UNICEF has responded with efforts guided by the Core Commitments for Children in Humanitarian Action that focus on providing 2.3 million children and their families, including children affected by human mobility,  protection from the exposure of COVID-19.

Trump Policy Endangers Child Refugees

Since the Trump administration’s 2019 Remain-in-Mexico program, 70,000 non-Mexican refugees have been waiting in asylum camps for their U.S. court hearings in northern Mexico. Within this group, 700 children have crossed the U.S. border alone as their parents wanted them to escape the terrible camp conditions and show themselves to U.S. border officials since unaccompanied minors cannot be returned to Mexico under U.S. policy and law.

CBS News reported that the Office of Refugee Resettlement has been able to house all children who had left their parents in Mexico and 643 of them have been released to family members in the U.S. Although this is good news, the Justice Action Center has filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration for its plan to deport children with circumstances like these, threatening their safety if they go back to their home country. The NGO, Human Rights First, has complied more than 1,300 reports of murder, rape, kidnapping, torture and assault against migrants returned by the U.S.

Mexico Enlists Reforms to Protect Child Refugees

As of November 2020, Mexico has approved reforms that apply to children in all migration contexts, accompanied or not. The reform will put an end to immigration detention centers for boys and girls and instead will be referred to alternative accommodation. It will also allow international protection and eligibility for temporary humanitarian visas to prevent deportation or return until the migrant child’s best interest can be resolved.

The U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is collaborating with associated government agencies, U.N. sister agencies and civil society organizations to certify that referral procedures and appropriate shelter capacity are arranged.

Mexico’s Solidarity Plants Seeds for Progress

For a country that has been overwhelmed by the influx of migrants desperately seeking asylum, Mexico has responded with compassion and an assertion to reform its immigration policy. This combined with other humanitarian efforts will provide monumental aid and help eradicate the suffering of child refugees in Mexico.

– Alyssa McGrail
Photo: Flickr

Human TraffickingThe Trump administration has committed to ending human trafficking, making it a major policy initiative of the president’s first term. At a State Department ceremony in June, Ivanka Trump, President Trump’s daughter and senior advisor, called trafficking an “ugly stain on civilization.”

However, the Trump administration is missing out on a key component of ending human trafficking: helping refugees. Refugees are among the most vulnerable groups of individuals to human trafficking, according to the 2017 and 2016 annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) reports. The 2016 report also notes that refugees who are denied asylum are especially at risk. Unaccompanied children and women are another target population.

Refugees constantly face threats of human trafficking, whether they are in their home countries; en route to their new countries; or even at temporary resettlement camps. One way traffickers exploit these asylum-seekers is by offering to smuggle them into countries where their entry is illegal.

Preying on refugees’ desperation to find better lives, they may then force their victims into sexual bondage or other forms of trafficking. Traffickers may also falsely promise incoming refugees jobs, or they take advantage of parentless refugee children.

Despite White House promises to reduce human trafficking, the newly instated travel ban makes it difficult for refugees to enter the U.S. For example, the travel ban places a 50,000-person cap on the U.S.’s refugee program. The cap is a stark contrast to former President Obama’s plans to resettle 110,000 individuals this year.

Thanks to a Supreme Court order passed in June, the ban will not apply to refugees who have children, parents or siblings in the U.S. However, it will still affect thousands of displaced persons around the globe.

President Trump’s attempts to dramatically limit U.S. refugee intake are at odds with his anti-trafficking goals. The 2016 TIP report clearly asserts that government-implemented strategies are key to the reduction of human trafficking of refugees.

“It is critical that governments and international organizations make every effort to identify and help trafficking victims among migrant populations,” the report says. It also recommends that officials provide migrants with safe, regulated immigration centers and work opportunities, as well as education on the dangers of human trafficking at entry points.

There must be plans to revise the U.S. refugee plans in order to protect the thousands around the world that are in modern-day slavery.

Sabine Poux
Photo: Flickr

Buy American LawsThe Trump administration is dusting off Depression-era laws to advance its “America First” agenda. The aptly-named “Buy American” laws require firms to buy U.S. materials when manufacturing military equipment.

In 2013, $20 billion went to foreign entities, roughly 6.4 percent of military spending. That money is spent largely on raw materials like lumber, fuel and construction materials from Canada and other allies. The enforcement of these 80-year-old laws would force the government to spend that money within the states.

While 6.4 percent isn’t a large chunk of total expenditures, the concern is the message it could send to U.S. allies when they are cut out. Bill Greenwalt, a former Defense Department procurement secretary believes that by cutting out allies, the U.S. will spark retaliation legislation. Many nations depend on the U.S. for military goods. Buy American laws could kick off many global domestic purchasing regimes and ultimately hurt U.S. sales abroad.

Furthermore, those regimes could end up not being specifically military equipment. An domestic purchasing agenda could instigate allies and developing markets to look inward or to each other for goods and put up trading barriers to the U.S. such as quotas and tariffs.

If the U.S. positioned itself to try its hand at grand-scale manufacturing and set up the tariffs favorable to domestic manufacturers, U.S. consumers and developing nations could suffer. For the U.S. consumer, prices of normally imported goods such as clothing, pharmaceuticals and cell phones could increase. Many middle and lower class citizens would feel the strain of these price increases and the overall standard of living would see a decline.

Developing nations could suffer as manufacturing and exporting goods to developed neighbors are one of the biggest staples of economic activity. Favoring domestic production to the purchase of fair trade goods from these nations could stunt their economies and put their citizens at higher risk of falling into poverty.

For both the U.S. and our trading partners, Buy American laws could be a game of mutually assured economic stagnation. Manufacturers and consumers everywhere could feel the burden.

Thomas Anania

Photo: Google

Sustainable Development Goals of 2030
When it comes to reaching the Sustainable Development Goals of 2030 that would eradicate extreme global poverty, rich countries are lagging behind.

Scandinavian countries are leading the way among 157 nations ranked by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN). The United States is ranked 42 in the list while Russia was ranked 62 and China 71. The Bertelsmann Foundation, which looks at global challenges to recommend solutions for pressing political, economic and social issues, says that the most developed countries need to speed up to complete their end on the Sustainable Development Goals of 2030.

“A rising ‘my country first’ approach by many heads of government threatens the realization of the SDGs,” according to the SDSN. As reported by Reuters, the countries that are most on track with meeting the Sustainable Development Goals of 2030 are Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway.

“Leaders at the G20 summit in Hamburg must strengthen the commitment towards these historic global goals,” reads the headline posted by the Bertelsmann Foundation. It released a story on countries not in line with meeting their Sustainable Development Goals right before the G20 Summit in Germany. The foundation’s goal is to have this dilemma addressed by the major world leaders at the G20 Summit.

The problem is that the Sustainable Development Goals of 2030 are just goals that aren’t mandatory. Therefore, countries may not have this as a priority, or might not even plan on fulfilling them at all. This is why it is so important to lobby policymakers and contact representatives to let them know where about important issues such as these.

Vicente Vera

Photo: Flickr

One of President Trump’s campaign promises was immigration reform. As a candidate, Trump stood for harsher immigration laws and vowed to undo many of the policies put in place by President Obama. One such law Republicans push Trump to act on is DACA, the Deferred Action for Children Arrivals program. On June 16, Trump stated that he planned to keep the program in place, although the White House insisted this was a temporary decision.

Since being enacted in 2012, the program has granted reprieves to approximately 800,000 undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children. The program also grants two year work permits. During Trump’s first three months in office, DACA grew by about 17,000 people. In addition, over 107,000 applications have been renewed.

As a candidate, Trump vowed to terminate the program and its counterpart, DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans), immediately. DAPA has been struck down, but DACA remains in place.

Pieces of DACA, however, have started to be dismantled by individual states. On June 20, the Arizona Court of Appeals overturned a ruling allowing DACA recipients to pay in-state tuition. This is consistent with Arizona law stating that anyone without legal status must pay out of state tuition.

However, this ruling makes it increasingly difficult for DACA recipients to get an education, especially degrees from four-year institutions. For many recipients, paying in-state tuition is what made transferring from a community college to a state college possible. The difference between out of state tuition and in-state tuition is $22,000. The ruling affects around 28,000 DACA recipients in Arizona.

Now, the entire program is being challenged on a federal level. Republicans from 10 states recently advised U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions that if DACA was not rescinded by September 5, the coalition led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton would sue the federal government. Not knowing how Trump plans to proceed concerning DACA has given recipients of the program a strong sense of uncertainty.

Political theorists expect Trump to repeal the program due to the pressure from his base. It is unclear what would happen to the 800,000 undocumented immigrants who are currently protected under the program. However, it is without a doubt that the end of the program would mean there are no more applications accepted for the program.

Anika Lanser

Photo: Flickr

Reduce Funding for the World Bank
President Donald Trump has proposed to reduce funding for the World Bank and other multilateral development banks (MDBs) by around $650 million over three years. The White House has stated that, in doing so, “the U.S. would retain its current status as a top donor while saving taxpayer dollars.”

The World Bank is one of two global MDBs. MDBs are supranational in nature, which means they do not face transnational limits, but shareholding foreign states do organize them. These organizations exist to support economic and social development in developing nations, largely in the form of grants and loans. They also exercise more direct involvements such as policy advice and conference participation.

As a global MDB, the World Bank’s programs are wide-reaching. One example of this is a proposal for additional funding for the Sustainable and Rural Water and Sanitation Project in Ghana. Approved on June 28, 2017, with a budget of $47.5 million dollars, the program aims to bring reliable access to water and sanitation services to rural towns across the country. New programs for over 100 countries are approved almost every day and are visible on the World Bank’s website.

The rationale for the funding reduction proposal places more value on preserving the U.S.’s status as a top donor than the work done on the ground as part of the World Bank’s programs. The Sustainable and Rural Water and Sanitation Project is not a donation, but an attempt to create sustainable sanitation services that can serve the people of Ghana for years to come. A smaller World Bank budget won’t just mean less money—it will result in a lack of human support that is necessary for the development of sustainable infrastructure in developing countries. At the moment, the U.S. is not even considered a top donor, ranking 20th on a list of donating governments in 2015.

Fortunately, there are several new and influential MDBs backed by non-Western nations that will likely continue to flourish even if the U.S. reduces funding for the World Bank. One of these is the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), which began in January 2016. The China-backed bank began nine large-scale development projects in 2016 throughout South and Southeast Asia and exceeded its lending goal. Contrary to what some expected, the bank’s programs have not been used to advance Chinese interests, as some Chinese investments in African countries have in the past. The early success of AIIB follows the upward trajectory of non-Western nations such as China, India and South Africa in the field of international aid.

Caroline Meyers

Photo: Flickr

What Trump’s New Cuba Policy Means for Cubans
On June 17, President Donald Trump announced that he is “canceling the last administration’s completely one-sided deal with Cuba.” After only two years of normalized relations, President Trump unveiled a return to the restrictions on travel and trade between the United States and Cuba. While many news outlets have covered the impact this change will have for American travelers, what Trump’s new Cuba policy means for Cubans is far worse.

Cuba is a small country with a very weak economy. While Cubans benefit from social services such as free health care and education, a crumbling infrastructure and the inaccessibility of basic goods create tremendous hardships. As a result of these challenges and a longtime dependence on the sugar industry, Cuba is in desperate need of foreign investment.

In the two years since restrictions relaxed, U.S. travel and trade helped mitigate the effects of these challenges. In 2016, 614,433 U.S. visitors traveled to Cuba, a 34 percent increase in U.S. travelers to the country’s hugely important tourism industry. The hassle and expense of the new travel restrictions are designed to stem this influx of visitors from Cuba’s richest neighbor. What the president’s new Cuba policy means for Cubans is less money circulating in the economy and fewer customers for the small business workers who depend heavily on tourism.

Similarly, the new trade regulations, which restrict trade with businesses owned by the Cuban military, are likely to end almost all trade between the two countries. Since Cuba’s is a state-run economy, it will be almost impossible for businesses to create deals that do not indirectly feed into the military. Cuba will be forced to pay high prices to import goods such as rice from China instead of dealing with nearby rice farmers in Louisiana. Again, this move reduces the amount of money in the Cuban economy and exacerbates the inaccessibility of much-needed goods.

What the president’s new Cuba policy also means is a decrease in private workers’ incomes and an increase in the inaccessibility of daily items. The good news is that none of these restrictions will take place immediately. The White House will most likely roll out regulatory amendments in the next few months. Further good news is that Cuba is a low-priority policy for most Americans, so even a small amount of outreach can have a big impact in amending the proposed changes. To truly help the people President Trump calls “voiceless,” American citizens should raise their voices to their representatives about the damage this new policy could cause to the Cuban people.

Bret Serbin

Photo: Flickr

The Battle to Alleviate Global Poverty
The Trump Administration has recently proposed severe budget cuts that will drastically reduce U.S. foreign aid in the developing world. In response to this potential risk, it is essential to identify the various developing countries that receive financial assistance that is necessary for developing the economic, political and social structures. Being able to differentiate between varying forms of foreign assistance is necessary in fully understanding what the U.S. can do to develop these struggling countries around the world.

Although foreign aid is extremely beneficial in efforts to alleviate global poverty, it is temporarily effective when compared to the long-term sustainability that is achieved through foreign investments. Nonetheless, foreign aid is extremely vital in potentially liberating a developing country from the negative consequences of recession, malnourishment and poverty. In distinguishing between foreign aid and foreign investments, it is crucial to understand how both efforts fundamentally affect the world’s poor.

Foreign aid is simply the donation of goods and services to developing countries, which generally is represented by a “cash value” articulated through the goods and services. However, alongside this aid derives contingencies for the recipient. For example, the goods and services heavily influence economic, political and ideological deviations that ultimately benefit the progression of the donor’s advancements in their worldly position.

Although this foreign aid is very resourceful during struggling times, citizens of developing countries seek more than just donations from countries around the world. The citizens strive for opportunities from development organizations to train them in various life skills that will help them lead healthy and successful lives. These developments will aim to improve their social and economic situations, giving them the tools and opportunities to raise themselves out of poverty, thus furthering the efforts to alleviate global poverty.

On the other hand, foreign investment is preferred to aid due to the long-term sustainability that accompanies the ventures made in developing countries. By investing in the encouragement of entrepreneurship, the development of small businesses and growth of financial investments, it benefits both the donors and the recipients. These investments generate economic activity and employment for not only the developing countries, but it produces additional consumer markets to boost trade within the host countries.

Nonetheless, foreign aid is an effective form of assistance for a developing country that needs immediate relief before devastating living conditions become destructive to the country’s well-being. By only lending goods and services to these developing countries instead of implementing teaching techniques, it could potentially hurt the development of encouragement and self-sufficiency overseas.

However, without foreign aid, these crisis-stricken nations would not be able to save the structural components of the countries. In order to alleviate global poverty and produce long-lasting effects on many struggling countries across the developing world, philanthropic nations need to understand that strongly investing in developing countries creates bigger impacts on furthering the world’s poor.

Brandon Johnson

Photo: Flickr


International Affairs Budget

The Trump Administration recently released its federal budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18), proposing deep cuts for the International Affairs Budget. The proposal includes plans to cut State Department and USAID funding by 31 percent and the Treasury International Programs budget by 35 percent. The proposed $37.6 billion total budget cut for the State Department and USAID starkly contrasts the $54 billion increase proposed for the Department of Defense.

There has already been pushback to the proposal, including a letter signed by more than 120 retired generals and admirals against the cuts, and another opposition letter signed by more than 100 faith leaders.

Top 10 things you need to know about the International Affairs Budget

  1. It’s tiny. The International Affairs Budget accounts for less than one percent of the federal budget. The amount spent on foreign aid is often overestimated by the general public. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll published in 2015 asked respondents: “What percentage of the federal budget is spent on foreign aid?” — the average response was 28 percent.
  2. The International Affairs Budget is also referred to as the “150 account.” Foreign aid can be split into two functions: economic and development assistance (151), and security assistance (152). For FY17, the State Department requested $25.6 billion for the 151 account and $16.8 billion for the 152 account.
  3. Seven out of the top 10 recipients of economic and development assistance are African nations. Afghanistan is the largest recipient of economic and development assistance, as part of the ongoing reconstruction of the country after the U.S. military invasion in 2001.
  4. Money allocated to help alleviate global poverty is mutually exclusive from money allocated to help fund domestic poverty-reducing programs. In the overall federal budget, the International Affairs Budget is a completely separate account from the domestic expenditure. Therefore, spending money on global poverty does not have to compete with spending money on poverty here at home. Mattis Foreign Aid Quote
  5. The U.N. suggests that developed countries put 0.7 percent of their Gross National Income (GNI) toward overseas development and assistance. According to 2015 OECD statistics, the U.S. spends just 0.17 percent on overseas development and assistance — missing the U.N. target by 76 percent.
  6. The International Affairs Budget funds vital programs that have profound impacts on major global health threats. USAID assistance helped stall the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa and continues to partner with local governments and organizations to ensure any further outbreaks are mitigated.
  7. USAID is the largest provider of food assistance in the world. Nearly 800 million people worldwide suffer from chronic hunger. Since its inception, around three billion people have benefited from USAID’s assistance programs.
  8. The International Affairs Budget has bipartisan support in Congress. U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) led three of his bipartisan Foreign Relations Committee members in proclaiming that funding for the budget is “every bit as essential to ensuring America’s national security as funding for the Department of Defense, the Intelligence Community and law enforcement.”
  9. The soft power of foreign assistance and development is supplementary to the hard power of the military. In 2013, U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis, as Commander of U.S. Central Command, remarked to Congress, “If you don’t fully fund the State Department, then I need to buy more ammunition.” Foreign aid and development can undoubtedly play a role in fostering positive growth and warm feelings toward the U.S. in societies that are at risk of succumbing to terrorist groups.
  10. Spending money on international development is not just a moral decision. In an ever-connected world, funding the International Affairs Budget creates jobs for American workers and boosts the American economy. In 1996, 39 percent of exports went to developing countries. Now, more than half of U.S. exports go to developing economies. Through aid and development, people living in developing economies are becoming more wealthy and more capable of affording American products.

The International Affairs Budget is a tiny component of the overall federal budget, but its impact in myriad areas is enormous. American jobs, economic growth, national security, and global health are just a few areas that will be affected if the proposed cuts by the Trump Administration are implemented.


– Michael Farquharson

Photo: Oxfam

mexican slums mexico city shanty towns
It’s no secret that President Trump has some choice words associated with Mexico, “wall” being one of the most frequently used. The President’s plans to complicate American ties with Mexico could have devastating effects on Mexico’s poor. Cutting back on economic ties with our southern neighbor could mean speeding up the economic degradation of Mexico’s poorest communities, exacerbating the issue of Mexican slums.

Top 5 Facts About Mexican Slums

  1. Mexican slums become breeding grounds for drug dealing and gang activity. Despite being among the richest nations in the world, Mexico’s poorest citizens live on less than $13 a day. The economic degradation leads many who live in Mexican slums to turn to drug dealing to support themselves and their families.
  2. One of the most commonly dealt drugs in Mexican slums is methamphetamine, a highly addictive stimulant drug that produces a high when inhaled or smoked. Desperate and impoverished, many residents of Mexican slums turn to dealing meth because it is a synthetic drug that can be made cheaply and sold for a high profit. The ease with which someone could make more money dealing drugs than working a real job is a telltale symptom of the depth of poverty present.
  3. The striking difference between affluent members of Mexican society and those who live in Mexican slums is most pronounced in photographs of Mexico City. Photographer Johnny Miller’s aerial photographs of Mexico City include brand new middle-class homes built right next to a rundown “barrio.”
  4. Approximately eight million people around the world live in slums, and in Mexico, most of those people are concentrated on the outskirts of the Mexican capital. Many rural residents travel to Mexico City in search of a better life only to wind up in shanty towns bordering the capital. However, many residents still believe that they and their families stand a better chance at finding a more dignified lifestyle in Mexico City than elsewhere. Al Jazeera reports on the Garduno family, who moved into Mexico City and lived with extended family in a small hut. Now, the Gardunos have their own home and are preparing to open a taco shop.
  5. Nezo-Chalco-Itza is the world’s largest slum, with about four million impoverished people living in it. The residents of this Mexican slum account for almost 10 percent of the population of Mexico City.

Mary Grace Costa

Photo: Flickr