May 17, 2019

How Border Policies Factor Into Surge in Central American Migration

A discussion with UA Center for Latin American Studies associate professor Elizabeth Oglesby.

The number of families apprehended along the Southwest border is up 400 percent over Customs and Border Protection's last fiscal year. Elizabeth Oglesby researches human rights and Central America at the University of Arizona Center for Latin American Studies. She explained how border security policies have contributed to the influx in migration, which she does not believe reflects a crisis.

"We've had high numbers of Central Americans coming to the United States for decades — in the 1980s during the civil wars in Central America where people were fleeing massacres and oppression, but also in the 1990s and the early 2000s where people came mostly for economic reasons. We had very high numbers of Central Americans, so Central Americans have been in this country for decades. In the 1990s we didn't call it a crisis," Oglesby said.

She described a shift in the characteristics of this current migration that includes mostly women and children, whereas in the past it was mostly single adults who would come to the U.S. to work and later return to their countries of origin. Oglesby said increased border enforcement has made it more difficult for people to cross back and forth like they did before.

"It's more expensive to make the journey, it's riskier to make the journey. So, in many ways what we're seeing now is efforts in family reunification," Oglesby said. "It is in some sense not the border breaking, but this is the result of border enforcement. This is the border working."

Arizona 360
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