(CNN)If President Donald Trump wants to get serious about slowing migration across our southern border, he should reunite separated immigrant children with their parents and focus on addressing the factors causing families to flee Central America. No wall or detention camp will deter migrants from trying to make it to America if they fear that death awaits them back home. And many currently believe that to be the case.
Instead of resorting to cruelty at the border, the Trump administration should tackle migration at the source. Improving our relationship with Mexico, working with local leaders to address gang violence in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, and restoring America’s diplomatic capabilities would do more to stem migrant flows than the administration’s misguided zero tolerance policy.
Unlike in previous decades, when most undocumented immigrants came from Mexico, today nearly 50% of those crossing the southern border are coming from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, an area in Central America known as the northern triangle. The region is plagued by drug-related gang violence, with a murder rate that rivals active war zones.
It also has the most violence against women of any region in the world. The violence is so severe that many experts believe most people coming from the northern triangle should qualify as refugees deserving asylum under US and international law.
The Trump administration has responded by trying to prosecute every undocumented person who crosses the border, forcibly separating children from parents, and trying to keep asylum-eligible migrants from stepping on US soil to deny them the ability to file a claim.
While it’s too soon to evaluate empirical data from Trump’s zero-tolerance policy, anecdotal evidence from migrants — along with analysis of other tough immigration policies in the past — suggests that harsh border practices don’t deter people, especially when they’re fleeing violence.
By YJ Fischer for CNN
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