Obama-era secretary of Homeland Security talks immigration with NPR

Listen to this recent NPR interview with Obama-era secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, on immigration and Trump.

Here’s the quick version:

  • More women and children are fleeing violence in Central America: Although overall arrivals at the U.S./Mexico border are decreasing, the demographic of the migrants who do come is changing. Instead of single men from Mexico, there are more and more women and children from Central America fleeing life-threatening violence akin to that in “a war-torn nation”.
  • Current policies betray U.S. values: “What's happening right now on the southern border, in terms of our border security, our border security enforcement and our federal criminal justice system, is contrary to who we are as Americans.”
  • Push factors must be addressed: Because the root causes of migration are changing, the U.S. response needs to change as well. “You can send all sorts of deterrent messages, and we did. The answer to this is you're never going to fully address illegal migration unless you address the underlying causes of illegal migration, the powerful push factors that motivate a mother or a father to send their child through Mexico to the United States in the first place.”

Cristosal works to address many of these “powerful push factors” in the Northern Triangle of Central America (NTCA).

We assist victims of violence at the moment of emergency. It’s clear that many families in the region are in danger. In 2017, together with the Quetzalcoatl Foundation, we provided legal, humanitarian, and/or psychosocial assistance to 701 people fleeing violence in El Salvador. 241 of them were children.

We help develop the state’s ability to protect and assist victims of violence. Using knowledge gained in our own models, we collaborate with state institutions to develop their ability to protect and assist citizens.

We build evidence about the problem. Our Monitoring Unit collects data on forced displacement by violence in the region. At the recent release of our 2017 Report on Forced Displacement in El Salvador, El Salvador’s Minister of Justice and Public Security, Mauricio Ramírez Landaverde, acknowledged violence as a factor driving displacement. He also recognized that some of that violence has been caused by the National Civil Police and the Armed Forces of El Salvador. These acknowledgements demonstrate a significant departure from the government’s previous position, which was to question the existence and scale of forced displacement.

We work toward structural change. Cristosal is working for legislative change that would benefit current victims of violence. Since last summer, Cristosal has accompanied six families forcibly displaced by violence in filing appeals for protection to El Salvador’s Supreme Court. A final ruling, with the power to order new laws and policies, is expected in some of these cases soon. Victims of violence who can count on protection and assistance from their own government won’t be forced to run from their aggressors, inside their country or across international borders.

At Cristosal, our work is motivated by a belief that every human being is inherently equal in rights and dignity. Today, work like this is more important than ever. “This is a decisive moment for individuals and communities to defend the inherent dignity of every human being, on any side of any border,” says Cristosal Executive Director Noah Bullock.

When you support Cristosal, you’re part of the solution. Your support makes it possible for Cristosal to come alongside victims of violence to provide protection when they need it most, repair the lingering effects of human rights violations, and build human rights environments to create conditions in the NTCA where peace is possible. Donate today.


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Hannah Rose Nelson