One of the biggest new stories from this summer was on the influx of more than 59,000 Central American unaccompanied crossing the U.S/Mexico border. This new story was widely reported national news sources such as NPR, NYTimes, Time, etc. According to the United Nations High Comission on Refugees, nearly 60% of refugees say that they are fleeing violence in their home countries. I recently came across a statistic from Amnesty International which states that an estimated 60% of all Central American girls crossing the U.S/Mexico border report having been assaulted en route. This is a staggering statistic because not only because of the traumatic effects which being sexually assaulted wreaks havoc on a person physically and emotionally, but because it illuminates the urgency of the circumstance which these children are fleeing. Rape and sexual assault are the realities which they are met, I think this is evidence that no child would choose to deal with such atrocities, an argument have been made by some political pundits.
It seems as if this is now a salient topic of conversation because it can no longer be ignored. For a long time, the U.S has had a fraught relationship with Latin American countries as it relates to immigration rights and citizenship. As a naturalized American citizen, the topic of immigration policy is one which is very important to me because it’s not just policy; immigration effects the lived realities of my aunts, cousins, and nieces and nephews. Although Haitian immigration policy is a topic which warrants its own analysis, I think it’s important to not look at immigration policy as being ahistorical. Critiquing the neoliberal effects of American foreign policy, specifically U.S intervention in Latin and Central American wars in the 20th century is something that is not done enough outside of the world of academia. For example, of the many op-eds and columns which I’ve read on this topic, very view delve into this history and how it’s affected the current economic policies of these countries. It seems backwards to aim to fix a problem of which the causes are not examined. I don’t think there is one answer to resolving this issue but I do think whatever proposed solutions being created should be looked at with a sober understanding of how U.S foreign policy has shaped the lived realities of these Central American children in the 21st century.
On a more cynical note, I can’t help but think that the upcoming Senate elections this November and presidential election in 2016 is coloring the ways in which politicians are choosing to respond to this topic. The Latino voting bloc is a large and continues to grow. According to the Pew Research poll, where politicians choose to situate themselves on this topic will likely have a great effect on election outcomes. I understand that immigration and human rights abuses such as rape are not ‘sexy’ topics of conversation but nonetheless, the national conversation needs to be expanded so that the experiences of these people can be better understood. I think in doing so, we can have a more sympathetic and full view of the effects of immigration on the lived experiences of people every day.