The United States and Mexico make Commitments to Reevaluate the Strategy of Deterrence and Detention in Response to the Central American Migration Crisis
In early July, the United Nations refugee agency held a summit in Costa Rica on the Central American refugee crisis. The Summit gathered representatives from refugees’ countries of origin, transit and asylum countries, and NGO’s, addressed responses to the crisis and called for greater awareness and action regarding this issue affecting scores of migrants from the Northern Triangle region of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.
At the end of the two-day meeting, participating nations offered commitments to a circulated document draft. Of particular note, the primary asylum countries, the United States and Mexico, have agreed to ensure the “timely identification and documentation, in particular at border areas, of persons in need of international protection” and to “implement, where possible, alternatives to detention.” The U.S., Mexico, and other contributors also agreed to set up a monitoring system on migrant displacement patterns.
These new commitments to reevaluating responses to the crisis come in the wake of the U.S. and Mexico largely pursuing strategies of deterrence, including the mass detention of migrant women and children, since the surges in Central American migration flows in 2014 and 2015. Following the pushback against such heavy-handed tactics by NGO’s, these latest steps by Mexico and the U.S. may signal the beginnings of a new strategy toward the plight of Central American migrants, and bode well given the UNHCR’s efforts to financially back closer monitoring of the situation in the region, as well as the planned migrants and refugees summit of the U.N. General Assembly on September 19, and a parallel summit organized by President Obama on September 20.