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Humanitarian News Briefs: The Ebola Virus

The Ebola Virus

The deadly Ebola virus that has been terrorizing Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia since the epidemic began in March has most recently been reported in Nigeria. The current outbreak has so far infected 1,600 people and killed more than 880 people in West Africa, making it the deadliest outbreak in the disease’s history – between the discovery of the Ebola virus in 1976 and the current outbreak, only 2,300 infections had been recorded. The virus, which attacks the immune system upon entering the host’s body, leaves patients with flu-like symptoms and uncontrollable bleeding. With no vaccine, and no cure, the primary treatment offered to patients is termed “supportive care” and consists of fluids, pain relief, and the management of clotting problems. According to Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), one of only two NGOs currently operating in the region working to quell the epidemic, the main way that the virus has been spreading in the West African region is at funerals. MSF notes that when one person dies, people from all over will come and practice their bereavement rituals including touching and kissing the unembalmed body without washing their hands after. Now that one case of the virus has spread from the three original countries to Lagos, Nigeria, there is growing concern by Western governments that the epidemic could spread out of Africa. In late July two Americans working in Liberia contracted the infection, further prompting concern about the disease’s potential to spread to countries in Europe, and the United States.

Dr. Kent Brantly, one of the two Americans infected with the virus, arrived at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta on August 2nd. Nancy Writebol, the other American infected, arrived Tuesday, August 5th. The Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Thomas Frieden, appeared on CBS’ Face the Nation on Sunday saying that it is unlikely that Ebola will spread in America.

Further addressing these concerns is the Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs’ Helen Hamlyn Senior Fellow, Dr. Alexander van Tulleken. In a London Telegraph article, Dr. van Tulleken explains that Ebola has a few main problems as a virus: “it kills its victims too quickly and infected people are extremely symptomatic… it’s actually not that contagious. Patrick Sawyer, the Liberian man who brought Ebola to Lagos, doesn’t seem to have infected anyone else – despite being extremely unwell on a crowded plane.” Dr. Peter Piot, co-discoverer of the disease and the Director of the London School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, says, “Spreading in the population here, I’m not that worried about it. I wouldn’t be worried to sit next to someone with Ebola virus on the Tube as long as they didn’t vomit on you or something.” In interviews with CNN, BBC World Service, Al Jazeera, and MSNBC, Dr. van Tulleken says it is important that no one in the West panic about this disease, “this isn’t a disease that’s coming to New York or London.” It is possible that there could be a case of the virus in a city like New York or London but, “our public health systems are so much better than Sierra Leone, Guinea, or Liberia that we are dealing with a totally different phenomenon here.” Dr. van Tulleken argues that although we should not worry about an Ebola epidemic spreading to the West, we should care about the disease, first and foremost for humanitarian reasons, “but also for reasons of self-interest.” To support his argument, Dr. van Tulleken emphasizes that, “The epidemic disease is a threat which desperately needs attention, and this epidemic is revealing weaknesses in the ability of the international system to respond.” In the largest Ebola epidemic ever, there are only two NGOs, MSF and Samaritan’s Purse who are currently responding in the West African region. According to MSF, they need twice as many people to respond to the rapidly growing epidemic: “We simply don’t have the numbers to delegate all the things that have to be done when we’re in the isolation ward…We would like to keep a visit between 45 minutes and one hour, but now, we’re stretching it to almost two hours. We put ourselves through a very strong psychological stress when we’re in personal protection gear, because it’s impermeable.” In Monrovia, Liberia the overcrowded and understaffed Elwa Hospital has had to turn away patients this week, in part because of the withdrawal of some international staff following the infection of Dr. Brantly and Ms. Writebol. Dr. van Tulleken sees the Ebola outbreak as an opportunity to “improve our regional and international co-ordination of epidemic control and the capacity of NGOs and UN agencies” because “this Ebola epidemic isn’t going to come to Europe but its spread and death toll is a warning that we aren’t prepared for diseases that could.”

 Updated 8/5/14


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Humanitarian News Brief: The Israel-Palestine Conflict

The Israel-Palestine Conflict

Summary: With the death toll mounting on both sides of the Israel-Palestine conflict, the international community is adamantly seeking a cease-fire between the warring parties.  Sunday, July 20th, marked the deadliest day in the latest conflict.  In Shejaiya, an eastern neighborhood of Gaza city, at least 60 Palestinians and 13 Israeli soldiers were killed. Sunday’s peak in violence stemmed from heightened tensions following more than a week of intense airstrikes and a ground offensive undertaken by the Israeli military. Throughout Gaza, Sunday’s ground offensive killed at least 87 Palestinians, bringing Gaza’s total death toll since the Israeli air offensive started on July 8th to 600 people, with more than 3,000 injured, including more than 100 children.  Sunday’s death toll for Israel’s military was higher than that sustained during the entire three-week duration of Israel’s last ground offensive in Gaza in 2008-2009.  Thus far, 25 Israeli soldiers and 2 Israeli civilians have been killed.

 

Late in the evening on Sunday, July 20th, the United Nations Security Council emerged from an emergency session regarding the escalating conflict and expressed serious concern about the continuation of the two weeks of fighting, calling for an “immediate cessation of hostilities.” The UN has reported nearly 100,000 people in 67 shelters, a situation to which the UN has responded by orchestrating an airlift of 45,000 mattresses and 10,000 blankets from Dubai. In response to the effects of increased fighting in Gaza, there was a rare break in attacks as both sides observed a five hour “humanitarian pause” to allow Gazans to stock up on supplies. In a recent release published by Robert Turner, the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Director of Operations in Gaza, Turner bears witness to the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza, noting the challenge of responding to situations of protracted displacement. Other than the services provided by UNRWA and several NGOs, access to health care remains limited and unreliable and infrastructure continues to collapse. UNRWA and numerous other UN agencies and humanitarian organizations remain committed to meeting the humanitarian needs of the people of Gaza.
With the death toll mounting on both sides of the Israel-Palestine conflict, the international community is adamantly seeking a cease-fire between the warring parties.  Sunday, July 20th, marked the deadliest day so far in the latest conflict.  In Shejaiya, an eastern neighborhood of Gaza city, at least 60 Palestinians and 13 Israeli soldiers were killed.  Following ten days of intense airstrikes, the Israeli military began a ground offensive on Thursday night in response to an attempted tunnel attack by 13 Hamas militants.  Israeli troops have recently been targeting the underground tunnels that connect the Gaza Strip to Israel – tunnels created and used by Palestinian militants to facilitate entry into Israel. Throughout Gaza, Sunday’s offensive killed at least 87 Palestinians, bringing the total death toll since the Israeli air offensive started on July 8th to 600 people, with more than 3,000 injured, including more than 100 children.  Sunday’s death toll for Israel’s military was higher than that sustained during the entire three-week duration of Israel’s last ground offensive in Gaza in 2008-2009.  Thus far, 25 Israeli soldiers and 2 Israeli civilians have been killed, and Israel recently confirmed that the remains of one of its soldiers had still not been found, coming two days after Hamas’ military wing claimed to have kidnapped a soldier.  On the morning of Monday, July 21st, day 14 of the conflict, Israeli military claimed to have thwarted two more infiltrations into its territory via tunnels from Gaza, and killed another 10 militants in response.  An Israeli news outlet reported that an unknown number of Israeli soldiers were also killed.  In the midst of the destruction, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has promised $47 million in U.S. aid to Gaza.

Israel’s continuation of its offensive comes amid mounting diplomatic pressure for a cease-fire.  The increase in fighting over the past two days has led to the uncovering of a central dilemma in Israel’s position.  On one hand, Israel has vowed to destroy all of Hamas’ underground tunnels, but it is simultaneously trying to garner international support by embracing cease-fire proposals from Egypt.  A senior Israeli military official on Sunday highlighted the challenging line Israel is attempting to toe, saying, “It’s a very difficult question, we have a mission, and we are going to fulfill it – Israel is not going to leave the threats of tunnels beneath the border between Gaza Strip and Israel.”  Still, he added, “after 13 days of fighting, and so many casualties, I believe that it’s the right time for all sides to stop.” However, demolishing all of the tunnels is proving to be more challenging than anticipated, as the network is much bigger and more sophisticated than Israel was expecting.  According to Lt. Col. Peter Lerner of the Israeli military, six underground tunnels have been destroyed across Gaza in the past day, but a total of 16 tunnels with 43 entry points have been uncovered since Thursday night.  Mirroring this challenge is the dilemma that Western countries are facing, as they understand Israel’s right to defend itself, but remain deeply concerned about the mounting number of dead and injured.

Late in the evening on Sunday, July 20th the United Nations Security Council emerged from an emergency session regarding the escalating conflict and expressed increasing unease about the continuation of the two weeks of fighting.  Acting council president, Rwandan UN Ambassador Eugene Gasana told reporters that “the members of the Security Council expressed serious concern about the growing number of casualties.  The members of the Security Council called for an immediate cessation of hostilities.”  The council met at the request of Jordan which proposed a more strongly worded draft resolution for consideration that called for an immediate cease-fire, “including the withdrawal of Israeli occupying forces from the Gaza Strip.”  For its part, the United States has sent Secretary of State John Kerry to Egypt to work with the Egyptians, Israelis, and leaders of the Palestinian Authority to bring an end to the fighting and restore the calm that followed a 2012 agreement ending eight days of cross-border violence.  The United States’ ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, stated the need for an immediate cease-fire saying, “Start with a cease-fire, and only after hold discussions on the problems at the base of the crisis.” Israel’s justice minister Tzipi Livni, the representative to the American-sponsored peace negotiations with the Palestinians that collapsed in April, has been sending mixed messages the past two days.  On Monday, July 21st she said the “demilitarization of Gaza” is essential but is “something we will discuss with the international community the day after…The whole idea of the proposal is to cease the fire, stop the fire.  This is the main goal right now.” However, on Tuesday July, 22nd, amid an increase in fighting, she said, “A cease-fire is not near, I see no light at the end of the tunnel.”  There are those in Israel like Gilad Erdan, a right-wing member of Israel’s security cabinet, who believe that Israel “must not agree to any proposal for a cease-fire until the tunnels are eliminated.”

The recent conflict, with origins rooted partly in June’s abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers, has only exacerbated the existing humanitarian crisis in Gaza.  The total death toll has reached 600 people, and the UN has reported nearly 100,000 people in 67 shelters, a situation to which the UN has responded by orchestrating an airlift.

Updated 7/21/14
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Humanitarian News Brief: The Syria Crisis

The Syria Crisis

For over three years, the raging civil war in Syria has destroyed the lives of millions of civilians. Current data estimates that over 140,000 people have lost their lives to the conflict. There are nearly 3 million Syrian refugees who have fled to neighboring countries and 6.5 million internally displaced persons who remain within the country, putting the total number of Syrians forced to flee their homes around 9 million, almost half of the population. According to the United Nations, by the end of 2014, three quarters of the Syrian population are expected to need aid. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has been working in Syria since 1964 bringing food assistance to the country. Currently, WFP is reaching nearly 4 million people per month in Syria with vital food assistance, and is helping hundreds of thousands of refugees who have fled into neighboring countries. Recently, WFP’s Syrian Country Director, Matthew Hollingworth (IDHA 1), spoke with the BBC’s Jeremy Bowen in a video interview about the ongoing work of WFP in Syria as part of a larger story on the suffering civilians in the city of Aleppo. Speaking of the importance of WFP’s work and mission, Hollingworth explains that “for many of the people you will have met who have been displaced two, three, four, five times over the last three years of war, [food] is the mainstay of everything that they can give to their families. Without this there is no question that we would start to see really serious cases of malnutrition.” For more information, read the IIHA Humanitarian News Brief.

In March 2011, Syrian demonstrators gathered in the capital city, Damascus, and the southern city of Deraa to protest the arrest and torture of political prisoners, and demand their release. When security forces opened fire on the originally peaceful demonstrators in Deraa, killing several, more people took to the streets. The violent unrest spread steadily across the nation over the following months demanding the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad. By July 2011, hundreds of thousands were taking to the streets in towns and cities across the country, and the government’s use of military force to crush the dissent seemed only to harden the protesters’ resolve.

Opposition supporters eventually began taking up arms, first to defend themselves and later to expel security forces from their local areas. Initially, the conflict was between the rebels and government forces, but has since fragmented with rival rebel groups fighting each other for control over rebel-held areas. Syria is both a religious and ethnic mix of Sunnis, Alawites (an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam), Kurds, Christians and Druze. President Assad, a member of the minority Alawite sect that has ruled the Sunni majority in Syria since 1970, has been trying to cling to power and save his clan.

The conflict has had disastrous consequences on the civilians who call Syria their home. From March 2011, when the civil war started, to July 2013, when the United Nations (UN) stopped updating the death toll, over 100,000 people had been killed. Today, estimates on the death toll exceed 140,000 people. There are nearly 3 million Syrian refugees mainly in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, and to a lesser extent in Iraq andEgypt. This number is increasing at 100,000 people per month,making Syrians the largest population of refugees in the world. Jordan’s Zaatari camp, the first official refugee camp opened for Syrians in July 2012, is the destination for many newly arrived refugees. It has a population of about 85,000 Syrians, making it Jordan’s fourth largest city. This refuge for displaced Syrians has raised questions about the role of camps, and has ignited a discussion about the possible need to treat camps as more than transitional population centers. Residents of Zaatari camp have started opening barbershops and bike repair shops out of the desire to look ahead and make the best of the situation. Mr. Abdul Latif, a Syrian refugee and resident of Zaatari camp explained, “We were used to living a decent life back home, so we had to make something of our situation here.”

Inside Syria there are 6.5 million internally displaced persons, taking the total number of Syrians forced to flee their homes up to 9 million, almost half of the population. According to the United Nations, by the end of 2014, three quarters of Syrians are expected to need aid. This estimate has caused the UN to ask for its largest appeal ever of $6.5 billion to provide medical care, food, water and shelter for Syrians in need.

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has been working in Syria since 1964. Since then the organization has provided more than $500 million worth of food assistance in the country in both development and emergency operations. Currently, WFP is reaching nearly 4 million people per month in Syria with vital food assistance, and is helping hundreds of thousands of refugees who have fled into neighboring countries. In order to reach areas that have been hard hit by the fighting, WFP has been working with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) and 23 other local organizations. This year, WFP plans to assist 2.9 million people in Syria’s neighboring countries, mostly through food vouchers, which allow families to choose their own food and help boost the local economy. By the end of the year WFP aims to reach 300,000 vulnerable children with additional ready-to-eat supplementary products to prevent and treat malnutrition.

WFP’s Syrian country director, Matthew Hollingworth, is an alumnus of the Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs’ first International Diploma in Humanitarian Assistance (IDHA). Recently, Hollingworth spoke to the BBC’s Jeremy Bowen in a video interview about the ongoing work of WFP in Syria as part of a larger story on the suffering civilians in the city of Aleppo. According to Hollingworth, WFP feeds nearly four million people every month. The rations are enough for a family of five to survive on for a month and include “iodized salt, vegetable oil, pasta, canned beans, dried beans, rice, wheat flour, etc.” Speaking of the importance of WFP’s work and mission, Hollingworth explains that “for many of the people you will have met who have been displaced two, three, four, five times over the last three years of war, this is the mainstay of everything that they can give to their families. Without this there is no question that we would start to see really serious cases of malnutrition.” One of the main challenges that Hollingworth addresses in his interview is accessing all of the people who are in need. He notes that one of the biggest difficulties in humanitarian assistance currently is the politicization of aid, “One of the biggest difficulties we have these days is that humanitarian assistance is being politicized, and there is too much talk of where people are living – are they living on the opposition side? Are they living on the government side? I mean I think essentially the whole discussion of bad citizen good citizen just on where they happen to be seeking refuge is a toxic one and one that we have to get past.” The rest of the interview can be found on the BBC website in the article “Syria Conflict: the suffering civilians of West Aleppo” under the heading Caught in the Middle.

 

Updated 7/7/14

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Humanitarian News Brief: Child Migration and Central America

Child Migration and Central America: A Humanitarian Crisis

During this fiscal year, nearly 50,000 minors have been detained by U.S. immigration authorities; almost double the number from last year. This huge influx of unaccompanied minors from Central America is threatening to become the biggest refugee crisis the United States has faced since 1980 during the Mariel boatlift when thousands of Cubans fled their home country by boat. The increase in unaccompanied minors crossing the border is said to be part of a larger flow of people fleeing Central America including many families with small children. On June 2nd, President Obama ordered federal emergency authorities to take charge of the relief effort calling the surge in unaccompanied children crossing into South Texas “an urgent humanitarian situation requiring a unified and coordinated federal response.”

When children from non-contiguous countries are caught in the United States, they are taken into U.S. custody by Border Patrol Agents. According to Federal Law, unaccompanied minors can only be held in a Border Patrol facility for a maximum of 72 hours. After that, they either have to be sent to a relative in the U.S. where they will await a hearing to determine whether or not they can remain in the U.S., or they are sheltered by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), which falls under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). HHS Spokesman Kenneth Wolfe said that the office operates about 100 permanent shelters for unaccompanied minors. Because of the steep increase in unaccompanied minors crossing the U.S. border recently, all of these facilities are filled. In May, the first supplemental shelter was set up at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, which was equipped to accommodate 1,200 minors; by early June it had already received 1,000 minors. On June 2nd, officials said the youths would begin to be transferred to a new shelter at Naval Base Ventura County in Oxnard, California, which will house up to 600 children. Now, a third shelter has been set up at Fort Still in Oklahoma.

The Border Patrol’s holding facilities were not open to the press until June 18th when under mounting pressure from lawmakers and immigrant rights groups, reporters were allowed access to processing facilities in Nogales, Arizona and Brownsville, Texas under strict guidelines that included being prohibited from speaking to any of the children. Previously, leaked photographs have shown cramped cells and an inadequate supply of food, beds, toilets, and showers. A recent lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and four immigrant rights groups on behalf of 116 children are chronicling a situation that they say “paint[s] a consistent picture of widespread abuse and mistreatment.” The groups interviewed about 1,000 children between ages 5 and 17 who had been detained in Texas this year, and found about 80 percent of them had been provided “inadequate food and water.” The complaint states that, “approximately half of the children described the denial of medical care. More than half reported physical abuse…Approximately 70 percent of these children were detained beyond the 72-hour statutory limit.”

After the children are either reunited with family, or housed by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, they are given a court date where they are, in theory, given the opportunity to present their claims for asylum. In reality however, the children are not required by law to have a government appointed lawyer because they are not involved in a criminal proceeding. Non-profits have been scrambling to find lawyers to represent the unaccompanied minors pro bono. Immigrant Advocacy Organizations have been calling for federally funded public defenders for unaccompanied minors, and their cries for assistance have taken on a wider scope and a new sense of urgency in the face of this new influx. Recently, the Obama administration said it was starting a program to provide lawyers for children facing deportation. Under the program, the federal government will issue $2 million in grants for 100 lawyers and paralegals to represent immigrant children. In a statement issued by the Justice Department, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said, “How we treat those in need, particularly young people who must appear in immigration proceedings — many of whom are fleeing violence, persecution, abuse or trafficking — goes to the core of who we are as anation.” Advocates gladly welcomed the program saying that it was long overdue. There are however, challenges presented by the new plan such as lack of training for this specific type of court case. Other advocates have critiqued the program as a seemingly small measure that fails to cope with a much larger problem, saying that, “a hundred lawyers nationwide is not going to satisfy our commitment to protecting these children…If we have to give lawyers to murderers, then perhaps we should give them to refugee orphans.” A spokeswoman for a community service corporation noted that, “The program has been in the works for a really long time… it’s consistent with the [Obama] administration’s efforts to provide a comprehensive response to the influx.” Despite the administration’s commitment to support lawyers who will help these unaccompanied minors attain asylum in the U.S., Cecilia Munoz, Director of the Domestic Policy Council at the White House, surprisingly anticipates that many of these young children may be deported regardless of the legal representation. In a recent article, Munoz states, “The end result of this process is likely to be that the vast majority of those kids end up going back. There may be some isolated cases where there is some basis for them to be able to stay, but the borders of the United States are not open, not even for children who come on their own, and the deportation process starts when they get here, and we expect that it will continue for the vast majority of these kids.”

There are many push factors that are creating this influx of unaccompanied minors crossing the border. The unrest and economic hardship plaguing many Central American countries due to gang related violence is one of the main reasons why many young people are fleeing their home countries. Daniel Penado Zavala was 17 years old when he decided to leave his home country of El Salvador after his stepfather was slain by gang members. He thought that if he stayed, he too would be a victim if he resisted the wishes of the gangs. He saved $7,000 to pay a smuggler, frequently known as a coyote, to arrange his journey first from El Salvador to Mexico, and then from Mexico to Texas. Daniel’s story is just one of many tales of young children fleeing gangs who are increasingly recruiting from schools, youth centers, and youth groups at churches to fill roles such as drug mules and assassins. In a meeting at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, DC on June 13th, the President of Honduras spoke of the role that U.S. drug consumers have played in this disaster, “We are very worried about the children, but sadly this is a security problem provoked by drug trafficking from the drugs consumed by the U.S., and this has had an impact on the situation involving the displacement [of Hondurans].” Honduras currently has the highest murder rate in the world. In one of its cities, San Pedro Sula, 169 out of 100,000 people are murdered, making it the deadliest city in the world.

Some lawmakers, Republicans especially, are blaming President Obama and his lax immigration policies as possible pull factors for why so many children are coming into Texas. On Sunday, Vice President Joe Biden extended a planned trip to Central America in order to have a summit-type meeting, to be held in Guatemala, on this issue with the Presidents of Guatemala and El Salvador along with a top official from Honduras. Senior Obama Administration officials told reporters that they are greatly concerned by the surge of unaccompanied minors from Central America coming to the United States. They said, “our top priority is to manage this urgent humanitarian situation… The entire U.S. administration is engaged in addressing the situation, in making sure these children are housed and fed and receive medical treatment, but at the same time we also realize the crucial importance of stemming the tide of migration.” There are misleading rumors in Central America that children who make it to the United States by June 2014 will be eligible for deferred deportation or may be eligible to stay in the U.S. indefinitely or permanently. Usually June and July are months where immigration rates are not as high, but this year will be an exception.   Senior Obama administration officials said that, “The vice president will be making this trip to Guatemala to discuss both the violence and economic opportunity side and the misperceptions of U.S. immigration policy… while he’s there in Guatemala he will emphasize that illegal immigration is not safe. That putting your child in the handsof a criminal smuggling organization is not safe. And he will make clear that recently arriving children arenot eligible for [the deferred deportation program] or earned citizenship provisions in current immigration reform legislation…the bottom line is that it’s not worth subjecting children to a perilous journey when, at the end of the day, there is no light at the end of the tunnel.” Last Wednesday, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told Congress that his agency was struggling to keep up with the increase in unaccompanied minors crossing into the United States saying, “the numbers are rising… Undeniably, there is a problem of humanitarian proportions.”

A Texas lawmaker, U.S. Representative Henry Cuellar of Texas’ 28th District, recently visited with Border Patrol agents and children while touring an immigration detention facility. Talking to the Border Patrol agents, Cuellar found that they were pained to see so many children and mothers crossing the border. He has asserted that the United States must do more than use enforcement to stop this surge of child migrants. He is urging the country to do more to prevent children from dangerously travelling to the United States in search of economic opportunity and safety by helping to build up the Central American economy: “We as Congress pay attention to all over the world except our own backyard… I’ve been saying we have to do more with those economies in the south. If not, they are going to keep coming.”

To deal with the influx of immigrants the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services Committee unveiled a $1.94 billion bill that would give the Department of Health and Human Services the means to fully deal with the increase. Meanwhile, the White House has announced that the issue will be addressed in the upcoming Homeland Security and State Department appropriation bills. The bills will not ask for increases for the already-written departmental allocations, but will instead halt or reverse sequestration limits for more than two-dozen areas. Administration officials further announced $9.6 million in additional support to El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala to help them reintegrate people who have been sent back, along with $40 million to launch a program to improve security in Guatemala, a $25 million program to provide services to youth in El Salvador who are vulnerable to organized crime, and $18.5 million to build youth outreach centers in Honduras. While most of the recent attention has been focused on the influx of unaccompanied minor immigrants coming into the U.S., law enforcement officials are becoming increasingly worried about the effect this surge is having on drug traffic coming into the U.S. The Border Patrol union representative in the Rio Grande region, Chris Cabrera, highlighted the issue in a recent statement, saying, “The arrival of large groups of women and children on the U.S. side of the Rio Grande is pulling agents away from their patrol stations elsewhere along the border, creating gaps in coverage that the traffickers can exploit… The smugglers wait on the southern banks of the Rio Grande as migrant groups as large as 250 wade across at dusk and turn themselves in to the Border Patrol…then groups of single men proceed to cross under cover of darkness…The most recent statistics…show that narcotics seizures have fallen across the entire border with Mexico this year.”

Updated 6/23/14

Margaret Dunne, IIHA Intern

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