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9/14: The Child Migrant Crisis Seems to be Over. What Happened? (2)
Released 20 November 2014  By Dara Lind - Vox

(....FROM PART ONE)

2) The smugglers' rumors told migrants to come by the end of June. A Border Patrol report from June said that the overwhelming majority of Central American families they had apprehended had heard they'd be eligible for legal status in the US. (This may have been the result of a misunderstanding that interpreted a notice to appear in immigration court as a work permit.) But there was an expiration date:

A high percentage of the subjects interviewed stated their family members in the U.S. urged them to travel immediately, because the United States government was only issuing immigration "permisos" until the end of June 2014.

The "end of June" rumor didn't have any grounding in the reality of US policy there's no policy it possibly could have referred to so it had to have come from smugglers. If it really was pervasive, it makes sense that the migrants who wanted to come to the US this year would have done it in May or June, rather than July or August.

On the other hand, smugglers can change rumors as easily as they start them; a separate rumor said anyone who came before October 1st would be eligible for a permiso. So it doesn't look like the "end of June" permiso rumor was all that big a deal.

3) The US public-awareness campaign in Central American countries. In order to combat the misinformation they thought was driving the migrant surge, the federal government launched a public-service-announcement campaign in Central American countries at the beginning of summer. The messages warned that the journey to the US was extremely dangerous, and said that people who came to the US would not be eligible for legal status.

In September Deputy Secretary Mayorkas cited the campaign as one of the reasons the surge stopped, but there's reason to be skeptical. The US and others have tried campaigns like this before, and they've never worked. It's possible this was the first successful migration-deterring public-awareness campaign in history, but it's not likely.

What can we learn about the underlying issues that caused the crisis?
It will probably take several years for analysts to settle on an explanation for this summer's child-migrant surge if they ever settle on one. But in the meantime, now that the surge is in remission, here are some conclusions.

1) Smuggling network capacity is crucial. It's pretty clear that, regardless of why people wanted to come to the US, they were able to do so because smuggling organizations were putting their efforts into bringing children and families from Central America to the US.

If the US and Mexican law-enforcement efforts are successful, many migrants probably won't want to do that anymore. But, just as it's likely that smugglers turned their attention to Central America to begin with because it was getting harder to smuggle people from Mexico, it's probable that smugglers will just find another market.

2) Rumors about US policies might be independent from reality. The end of the surge poses a big problem for some Republican members of Congress. They've been claiming that the surge can't be stopped unless the Obama Administration stops protecting unauthorized immigrants who are already here from deportation, through programs like Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

But DACA hasn't ended, and children and families have stopped coming (for the time being) anyway. Republicans have yet to acknowledge this this week, several Senate Republicans called to end DACA because of the crisis on the southern border, implying that nothing had changed since June.

If one of the factors driving the surge was that children and families falsely believed they were eligible for legal status or "permisos" in the US, then it looks like that rumor's been stamped out (or has faded away). That means the rumor existed independently of actual US policy, and could be tackled without changing that policy.

3) Violence in home countries is a key push factor and one that hasn't been fixed. It is, however, possible that the surge especially of unaccompanied children wasn't being driven by false rumors that they'd be eligible for protection under Obama, but the true belief that they would be eligible for protection under US law, because of the violence they faced in their home countries.

Over the summer, there was very little agreement among US government officials about whether children and families were fleeing gang violence and persecution in Central America, or just general economic deprivation. (That debate had key implications for whether they should be allowed to stay in the US.) In September, though, Deputy Secretary Mayorkas named violence as the key factor pushing people out of their home countries.

There's no evidence that children and families aren't coming to the US now because their home countries have gotten safer. To the contrary: The fact that the Mexican government is interdicting so many children indicates they're still trying to come.

What worries asylum advocates about some of the measures that have worked to stop the surge (the Mexican government's efforts, the expansion of family detention in the US, the messages that Central Americans categorically aren't eligible for legal status) is that they treat migrants who have been persecuted, and are theoretically eligible for protection, the same as those who haven't and aren't.

In that view, the end of the surge is only a success if you define "success" as fewer children and families managing to reach the United States not if you define "success" as ending illegal migration into the US without impeding people who deserve legal status.


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