Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and his racist rhetoric about Mexicans has made the construction of a wall between the United States and Mexico one of the major issues in this election but a new report from Washington Office on Latin America claims there is not a national security crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Contrary to the political rhetoric coming from the Republican Party, undocumented migration is not getting worse. The report found that with 408,870 migrants apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border in fiscal year 2016, overall undocumented migration remains similar to figures from the 1970s.
Perhaps more importantly, the report also notes that there has been a shift in who is attempting to make the perilous journey into the United States.
“Rather than just economic migrants, we are increasingly seeing families and unaccompanied minors who have fled violence in Central America, and who deserve the chance to seek international protection in the United States,” said Maureen Meyer, one of the authors of the report.
In fact, according to WOLA's investigation, over 53 percent of those apprehended at the border were listed as “other than Mexicans.”
The security situation in Central America has grown increasingly more dangerous, including in Honduras, where the situation became a full-blown crisis after a U.S.-backed coup in 2007 ousted the country's democratically-elected government.
Citing a separate report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, WOLA said that 82 percent of women from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, as well as Mexico, who were screened on arrival at the U.S. border “were found to have a significant possibility of establishing eligibility for asylum or protection under the Convention against Torture.”
Rather than present a national security threat, under the 1951 U.N. Refugee Convention, those arriving in the United States as refugees actually constitute an international obligation and must be protected.
By trying to tie Mexico's ongoing drug war to asylum seekers fleeing violence, right-wing politicians have also repeatedly tried to suggest that irregular migration into the United States from Mexico constitutes a threat to national security.
When Trump launched his campaign, he famously quipped that Mexicans were bringing “drugs” and “crime” but the report found that violent crime rates in U.S. border communities remain among the lowest in the nation.
“The reality of the U.S.-Mexico border is that there is no national security emergency there,” said Adam Isacson, another of the authors.
The report — based on research and a field visit to El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico in April 2016 — serves to undermine the basis of one of Trump's main campaign pledges, the building of a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
“Building hundreds of miles of additional fencing through empty wilderness areas would be an expensive and ineffective mistake,” said Isacson.
The report's authors argue that if there is a crisis on the border, it is a humanitarian one. The WOLA report found that ports of entry are understaffed and under-equipped, potentially leading to a situation where personnel will be overwhelmed with people fleeing violence in their homelands.
The report's authors make a series of recommendations including expanding efforts to provide adequate screening and protection of those fleeing violence and threats; providing social assistance to families and increasing legal representation for children; eliminating family detention centers; hiring more personnel at ports of entry, and addressing abuses by border officials.