Address the Root Causes of the Migrant Crisis

In this letter to the editor of The Washington Post, Director of the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking Melysa Sperber urges U.S. policymakers to address the violence, corruption, poverty and climate of impunity at the heart of the migrant crisis.

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It is tragic that unaccompanied children who are fleeing extreme violence in Central America are vulnerable to human trafficking in the United States [“Migrant teens were forced into farm work,” front page, Jan. 27]. Perhaps even more tragic is that the root causes of this “surge of children flowing across the U.S.-Mexico border” — violence, corruption, poverty and a climate of impunity — remain unchanged and largely ignored by policymakers.

U.S. government action to tighten border control and its financial support for Mexico’s efforts to detain and return refugees before they reach our southwestern border are forcing fleeing children and families to follow even more treacherous routes to the United States. Too often, they are detained, trafficked or, worse, forced to return to a home rife with violence. This humanitarian crisis shows no signs of abating. The number of children crossing the U.S.-Mexico border is on the rise: In October and November,10,500 unaccompanied children crossed into the United States. It is time U.S. policymakers employ an approach that addresses the root causes of this forced migration, one that upholds the core American value of humanitarian leadership.