Trump’s demand for a border wall has spotlighted migration from Mexico and Central America, and although apprehensions at the Southwest border are far lower than they were 15 years ago, there's lately been an upward spike of people trying to cross into the U.S.—including a record number of families. These numbers point to a deep crisis in the region. Endemic crime, violence, human rights abuses and economic inequality continue to push Mexicans and Central Americans to flee to the U.S. and other countries.
The region’s intentional homicide rates are enough to give pause. According to the most recent data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, in 2016 the homicide rates per 100,000 population were: 83 in El Salvador; 57 in Honduras; 27 in Guatemala; and 19 in Mexico. In 2018, Mexico experienced its highest number of homicides since record keeping began in 1997. Although these crimes are primarily perpetrated by organized crime cartels and gangs, the militarized response by governments has only exacerbated the problem. Since the beginning of the Mexican government’s 2006 “war” on drugs and organized crime, about 37,000 people have gone missing, according to the Ministry of the Interior, a number cited by Human Rights Watch. It was these statistics—and his pledge to end the militarized state response—that fueled Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador’s victory in the 2018 Mexican election.
While MacArthur Winds Down, Ford and Newer Funders Dig In
A number of funders—both legacy heavy hitters and smaller foundations—are engaged in the region, focused on alleviating some of these root causes of migration. The MacArthur Foundation, which opened an office in Mexico back in 1992, announced in early February 2019 that it was committing an additional $15 million to support “Mexico’s civil society and continued efforts to protect human rights and reform the nation’s justice system.”