National War College Award-winning Thesis by USAID’s Debra Mosel

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    Ven Suresh

    Debra I. Mosel — USAID Foreign Service Officer and now Deputy Mission Director for USAID/Sri Lanka and the Maldives–received the National War College George Kennan award for the excellence of her research project and writing. Ms. Mosel’s thesis paper, “Decreasing Migration from Central America to the United States through Addressing Violence against Women and Children,” describes violence against women and children as a key factor driving immigration. Her paper argues that restarting bilateral assistance to countries in need, creating ways to measure protection from violence and establishing a new body of international law would ultimately lead to a reduction in illegal migration.

    Executive Summary:

    Reducing illegal immigration to the United States at the southern border is a means to preserving the U.S. national interests of security, prosperity, and our way of life. Unfortunately, illegal immigration is increasing and changing in its very nature. The ten-year annual average (FY 2009 – FY 2018) of migrants at the U.S. southern border remained steady at 401,000, but increased dramatically in 2019 with a large increase in those apprehended from the Central American countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. The changing demographics of these migrants can be seen in the tables below that represent illegal migrants only from these 2,3
    three countries apprehended at the U.S. – Mexico border in 2018 and 2019.

    Children and families represent almost 82 percent of the total 605,000 people from these countries apprehended at the border in FY 2019. While published data does not disaggregate single adult apprehensions by sex, a conservative estimate is one-third, or 57,000, are female. Added to children and families, these three groups equal over 90 percent of the total migrants.

    While apprehensions have decreased slightly in early 2020, the drivers behind illegal immigration from these countries have not changed. Therefore, any decrease is likely to be short in duration until the underlying causes of migration are addressed. To date, much of the U.S. effort has focused on deterrence for migrants. The 2019 vast change in migration from Central America presents opportunities to target the key migration driver of violence and reverse the trend of unaccompanied children, families, and women arriving at the border. In fact, violence against women and children is so brutal and widespread that targeting this one root cause will decrease the need for these women and children to leave home decreasing overall illegal migration at the U.S. Southwest border by up to one-third. To do this three mutually reinforcing pillars are necessary. First, the United States government must restart bilateral assistance to these countries emphasizing community-based programs to prevent violence, protect women and children victims and those under threat, and enforce laws at the local level. This work will build upon successful results that decreased the intention to migrate by reducing violence and add a component targeting gang-violence starting in the communities most vulnerable to migration. Second, a U.S. bilateral process will be established to measure, share, and compare country-level performance in the protection of women and children holding countries accountable bilaterally for poor performance through sanctions and widely shared information campaigns. Third, most important for sustainability and, therefore, undergirding all efforts will be the establishment of a new body of international law to protect women and children from violence to hold these countries accountable multilaterally. Combined, these three pillars aim to decrease overall illegal migration from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to the U.S. Southwest border by up to one-third within five years, and sustain that reduction, through decreasing violence against women and children.

    The full thesis can be read at:

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