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A level-headed report from the Center for American Progress makes it clear that, just as the child migration problem was not caused primarily by United States policies, it cannot be solved entirely from Washington, either.

An analysis from the Center for American Progress (CAP) finds that “U.S. border enforcement policies are not the primary drivers” of the humanitarian crisis of caused by child migrants at the U.S. southern border. Given that, CAP says, the U.S. should adopt an approach aimed addressing the real causes of turmoil in Central America: Organized crime, violence and poverty.

The report, written by CAP’s Dan Restrepo and Ann Garcia, makes it clear that, just as the child migration problem was not caused primarily by United States policies, it cannot be solved entirely from Washington, either. In spite of what President Obama’s critics have charged, Restrepo and Garcia write, “much of the surge stems from the interrelated challenges of organized criminal violence and poverty that adversely affect individuals in Northern Triangle countries” of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Because of that, fixing the problem will take time and require “a unified commitment from political, economic and civic leaders” in those countries “to address citizen security and economic development in an integrated way.”

Read the report: The Surge of Unaccompanied Children from Central America by Dan Restrepo and Ann Garcia

RelatedA way forward on child refugees

What’s most notable are what the CAP analysis does not say – and how that reveals the contrast between right-wing and progressive views on immigration. Nowhere does the report suggest that militarily sealing the border or flatly denying entry to unaccompanied minors would be helpful. Also not included are solutions like “using ships of war,” or statements comparing the immigrant children to al-Qaeda. CAP also rightfully sidesteps the issue of whether or not the border crisis represents God’s judgment on America.

The CAP report instead suggests a set of foreign policy steps to help manage the situation in the short run and address the root causes in the long run.  The recommendations include a variety of level-headed ideas such as:

  • Helping police forces judiciaries and penal institutions become more professional and credible while also enhancing their accountability.
  • Fostering regional cooperation between the countries in the region. That would include the U.S. working to leverage trilateral cooperation with Colombia and Mexico.
  • Encouraging a whole-society approach to creating sustainable security and economic environments by utilizing “greater contribution from all levels of society throughout the region, including the private sector.”
  • Enhancing international accountability, in part through the use of high-level diplomatic meetings “to galvanize action from each of the governments at the table and to hold political leaders accountable for past commitments.”
  • Increasing U.S. investment in development and citizen security, notably “a longer-term commitment to enhanced funding streams for development and citizen-security efforts in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.
  • Enhancing the targeting of transnational criminal organizations with financial sanctions and other measures.
  • Limiting military U.S. involvement.

That last point might irritate Republicans like Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who says he is sending up to 1,000 National Guard troops to the help guard the Mexican border. But, as the CAP report points out, solving problems like poverty and rampant crime “is not what militaries do, nor should it be something they are encouraged to do.”

The CAP suggestions are not perfect. All of them are much more easily said than done. But it’s refreshing to read a report about the border crisis written by grown-ups who sincerely want to solve problems and avoid political grandstanding. Congress and the White House should spend some time with it.

James Melton is publisher of Wonky News Nerd (

This post is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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