The rise in Central American immigration to the United States since 2014 is an issue of concern to Southern Arizonans. Rep. Martha McSally spoke out about this issue at a recent hearing on Central American immigration and border security, and again last week, as she led Homeland Security chief Kirstjen Nielsen on a tour of the border.
Yet, the solutions McSally proposes are little more than a warmed-over version of Trump administration talking points, which criminalize and punish Central American families fleeing violence and seeking asylum. By now, we’ve all read the news about young children being taken from their parents in U.S. immigration detention centers in Arizona and elsewhere.
This is not a solution. A lasting solution must address the root causes of migration that have their origin in social, economic and political conditions in the region.
Given her expressed concern over Central American migration, I have four questions for McSally.
Will you join the House Central America Caucus?
This 33-member House caucus, formed in 2016, focuses on how U.S. policy in Central America can advance human rights and the rule of law, two essential pillars of any strategy to address the causes of out-migration.
The caucus is led by Rep. Norma Torres, D-Calif. Arizona Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego is a member. But the group is bipartisan and includes Republicans such as John R. Moolenaar, R-Mich., and Reid J. Ribble, R-Wis. McSally would signal her seriousness on the issue of Central American migration by joining this caucus.
What are you doing to support Central American efforts to defeat organized crime and corruption?
McSally has spoken out about Central American street gangs like MS-13. Yet an even more critical issue in the region is government-linked organized crime and corruption. Organized crime and graft create security threats and drain resources that could be used for development to mitigate migration.
The United States currently helps fund a U.N.-supported anti-graft commission in Guatemala that has been successful in battling organized crime and corruption. Some members of Congress want to cut that funding, however. McSally would serve her constituents well by speaking out forcefully in support of Central America’s efforts to combat organized crime, especially the anti-graft commissions in Guatemala and Honduras.
Will you support human-rights defenders in Central America?
Whenever I write or teach about Central American migration, I am asked why Central Americans can’t stay home to fight for better conditions in their countries. Central Americans will continue to flee their homes as long as violent conditions persist, such as the murders of indigenous, environmental and human-rights activists, and the violent displacement of rural communities.
Rather than attack the Central American migrant “caravan,” McSally should ask why so many Hondurans joined the caravan this year. Gang violence played a part, but so did government violence against protesters in the wake of Honduras’ contested elections last year. I urge McSally to take an active part in speaking out about these crimes and demanding accountability for the perpetrators.
Will you meet with community organizations and experts in your district to discuss the dilemma of Central American migration?
McSally doesn’t have to go far to find many people in her district with deep knowledge of Central America, the border and immigration. Tucson has many community organizations that have been connected to Central America for decades.
The University of Arizona has specialized research centers and dozens of renowned scholars with expertise in these areas. We would be happy to meet with the congresswoman or her staff to inform accurately on an issue that concerns all of us.