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Seeking a Rational Approach to a Regional Refugee Crisis: Lessons from the Summer 2014 ‘Surge’ of Central American Women and Children at the US-Mexico Border

JMHS, Volume 5, Number 1, p. 137-179, 2017

UC Hastings Research Paper No. 241

44 Pages Posted: 11 Apr 2017  

Karen Musalo

University of California Hastings College of the Law

Eunice C. Lee

University of California Hastings College of the Law

Date Written: March 10, 2017

Abstract

This article proceeds in four parts. In the first section, we examine and critique the administration’s “pull”-factor-based policies during and after the 2014 summer surge, in particular through the expansion of family detention, accelerated procedures, raids, and interdiction. In section two, we look to the true “push” factors behind the migration surge — namely, societal violence, violence in the home, and poverty and exclusion in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. Our analysis here includes an overview of the United States’ responsibility for creating present conditions in these countries via decades of misguided foreign policy interventions. Our penultimate section explores the ways in which our current deterrence based policies echo missteps of our past, particularly through constructive refoulement and the denial of protection to legitimate refugees. Finally, we conclude by offering recommendations to the US government for a more effective approach to the influx of Central American women and children at our border, one that addresses the real reasons for their flight and that furthers a sustainable solution consistent with US and international legal obligations and moral principles. Our overarching recommendation is that the US government immediately recognize the humanitarian crisis occurring in the Northern Triangle countries and the legitimate need of individuals from these countries for refugee protection. Flowing from that core recommendation are additional suggested measures, including the immediate cessation of hostile, deterrence-based policies such as raids, family detention, and interdiction; adherence to proper interpretations of asylum and refugee law; increased funding for long-term solutions to violence and poverty in these countries, and curtailment of funding for enforcement; and temporary measures to ensure that no refugees are returned to persecution in these countries.

Suggested Citation

Musalo, Karen and Lee, Eunice C., Seeking a Rational Approach to a Regional Refugee Crisis: Lessons from the Summer 2014 ‘Surge’ of Central American Women and Children at the US-Mexico Border (March 10, 2017). JMHS, Volume 5, Number 1, p. 137-179, 2017; UC Hastings Research Paper No. 241. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2947336

Karen Musalo (Contact Author)

University of California Hastings College of the Law ( email )

200 McAllister Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
United States

Eunice C. Lee

University of California Hastings College of the Law ( email )

200 McAllister Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
United States

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