Developing strategies to end hunger
 

114 posts categorized "Immigration"

For Families in Central America, Heartbreaking Decisions

Percent Change in Unaccompanied minors
Why are so many more unaccompanied children crossing the U.S. border with Mexico? Most (about 75 percent) of the new wave of minors are not actually from Mexico, but have made the long journey through Mexico from the Central American countries of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.

If the surge of child migrants were caused by softer U.S. policies -- or rumors of softer U.S. policies -- we would expect many to be from Mexico. After all, Mexico, which shares its long border with the United States, is the home country of the majority of undocumented immigrants here. But as we see in the above graphic, Mexico is not the source of the increase. In fact, the number of unaccompanied Mexican children has changed little, and even declined since 2009.

The primary causes are, instead, deep poverty and extreme levels of violence in Central America. The striking disparities between the haves and have-nots in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador sustain high levels of hunger and malnutrition, particularly among young children, whose rates of stunting are soaring. At the same time, the three are the most violence-plagued nations in the hemisphere. Gangs often choose to recruit elementary school children; those who refuse to join are sometimes killed along with their entire families, and girls are frequently targeted for gang rape. This is why so many of those trying to cross the U.S. border are children and teenagers.

Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala Lead the World in Murder Rates
As long as poverty, inequality, and weak governance persist – and often worsen – many families in these three countries face a dilemma no parent should have to face: keep their children home even though they can’t protect them, or send them on long, dangerous journeys in hopes that they will reach a safer place.

To resolve the crisis of the unaccompanied child migrants, border control is not enough. The root causes are at home. Thousands of desperate families have determined that fleeing, even with the risk of never reaching their destination, is the best option their children have. The United States can do a great deal to help alleviate poverty and enable Central American governments to protect their citizens. Read more about specific policy recommendations from the Institute’s senior immigration policy analyst, Andrew Wainer. Derek Schwabe

Which Country Is Most Committed to Ending Hunger?

This time last year, I  blogged about the Hunger and Nutrition Commitment Index (HANCI), which combines a number of variables to come up with a ranking of how serious a country’s central government is about fighting hunger and malnutrition. We know that lack of political will is the only reason the world hasn’t ended hunger yet – so efforts like HANCI are important.

Government commitment was measured by indicators such as the creation and implementation of new policies and programs, the strength of existing programs, and whether the efforts are supported with sufficient funding. The first HANCI, last year, ranked Guatemala at the top because of its substantial “improvements in providing clean drinking water, ensuring improved sanitation, promoting complementary feeding practices, and investing in health interventions.” HANCI also noted that the Guatemalan government had launched a national campaign, the Zero Hunger Plan.

The second HANCI report, released this week, once again ranks Guatemala, along with Peru and Malawi, at the top. In these countries, governments, civil society organizations, and international partners are collaborating on programs that are making a difference to people’s health and well-being. It is no surprise that the three are also leaders in the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement, with active civil society networks that advocate for improved nutrition with their governments. SUN countries emphasize the “1,000 Days” window of opportunity on nutrition, which lasts from a woman’s pregnancy to her child’s second birthday.

HANCI 2

In this chart from the HANCI report, nutrition rankings are the Y axis (vertical) and hunger rankings are the X axis (horizontal). The closer a country is to (1,1), like Guatemala (GTM), the higher its score.

Learn more about Guatemala’s efforts by watching a recent PBS NewsHour segment, “Widespread childhood malnutrition is a paradox in agriculturally rich Guatemala".

 

The PBS broadcast features interviews with government leaders such as Luis Enrique Monterosso, head of the country’s hunger and malnutrition agency; leading private sector businesspeople on why they believe that ending malnutrition in Guatemala is imperative; and Save the Children-Guatemala, which implements programs funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

Early successes in Guatemala stem from the recognition that nutrition is important across development sectors; offices devoted to agriculture, health, education, and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) are all working on nutrition issues. In health, direct nutrition interventions such as feeding malnourished infants are complemented by “nutrition-sensitive” actions in other areas – actions aimed at tackling the underlying causes of malnutrition. These programs together comprise “bundled interventions,” which experts at The Lancet medical journal, the Copenhagen Consensus, and IFPRI consider one of the best uses of development assistance. Bundled interventions fight malnutrition in cost-effective ways; in fact, the benefits they bring are worth many times their cost.

Scott Bleggi

Getting to the Roots of Migration

As Violence in Central America Rises, More Children Flee, 500 pix

For months, immigration reform has been languishing in Congress. But a surge of unaccompanied children and youth crossing the border into the southern United States is a humanitarian disaster that has catapulted migration into the public consciousness and brought to light the conditions that lead desperate parents to send their children to the United States seeking a better life.

So far this year 47,000 children traveling without adults have arrived at the border. About 80 percent are from Central America. According to the International Organization for Migration, children as young as 18 months have been entrusted to smugglers to make the journey. And more are expected. According to the Department of Homeland Security, the total may reach 90,000 unaccompanied minors in 2014 and perhaps more than 100,000 in 2015.

Child migration from Central America --particularly in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador -- has actually been on the rise for several years as already high levels of violence worsen and socioeconomic conditions deteriorate. The U.S. immigration system – mostly along the Texas border where the child migrants are arriving – is overwhelmed. Tens of thousands of newly-arrived women and children are being housed at military bases in California, Texas, and Oklahoma and in converted shelters in Arizona. The administration is seeking additional shelter for the child migrants elsewhere around the country, including in Virginia and New York State.

The more rapid surge this year was largely unanticipated by the administration, which recently asked Congress for more than $1 billion in additional funding for the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement in order to respond to the growing numbers of immigrant children. So far, Congress has not increased the available funding.

Opponents of immigration reform have criticized the Obama administration , accusing senior officials of encouraging the additional unauthorized immigration. Immigration advocates have largely taken the opposite position -- attributing the problem to the current dysfunctional immigration system and the lack of immigration reform. The White House says the immigration surge is caused by poverty and violence in Central America -- yet simultaneously, the administration has begun taking a harder approach to immigration enforcement and deportation along the border.

Last Friday, Vice President Joseph Biden met with leaders from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador to convey the message that immigrants entering the United States illegally will be deported. Biden will urge potential Central American immigrants not to count on being granted asylum in the United States. In the past, some pregnant women and parents accompanied by young children have been allowed to join family members in the United States temporarily. According to several sources, this has created a false perception among some immigrants that they can obtain legal status if they make it to the border, even without authorization.

The immigration reform legislation now stalemated in Congress is important and would help in the response to the current child migration surge. But without increased public and policymaker focus on the root causes of immigration, the problem of unaccompanied minors is likely to continue. It’s no coincidence that most of the child immigrants are from some of the poorest and most violent nations in the Western Hemisphere. Sending your child hundreds of miles – alone – to seek refuge in the United States is not a decision that is taken lightly. It is a desperate act.

Immigration reform needs to include provisions that respond to the factors driving people to make such calculations. Without addressing the poverty and resulting destabilization in the region that contribute to unauthorized immigration, the current humanitarian challenge on the border can only be staved off, not solved.

This blog post is the first in a series analyzing the role of violence, poverty, and a lack of economic opportunity in generating unauthorized immigration to the United States.

  Andrew Wainer

“Nutrition for Growth” At One Year: Tracking Global Pledges

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Nutrition and education link in Guatemala school feeding. (Joe Molieri/Bread for the World)

We recently marked the first anniversary of the historic global nutrition event “Nutrition for Growth: Beating Hunger Through Business and Science” (N4G), held in London in conjunction with the 2013 G-8 Summit. Co-hosted by the governments of the U.K. and Brazil and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), the event brought together leaders from business, government, science, academia, and civil society. They made ambitious financial and political commitments to provide better nutrition to women and children in the 1,000 Days “window of opportunity” from pregnancy to age 2; reduce the numbers of stunted children; and help put an end to deaths from severe acute malnutrition. More specifically, they agreed to prevent at least 20 million children from being stunted and to save at least 1.7 million lives by 2020.

How pervasive a problem is malnutrition? The number of people suffering from chronic hunger declined from 868 million in 2012 to 842 million in 2013. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, the number of undernourished children has been reduced by 17 percent in 20 years. Yet undernutrition is still the cause of nearly half of the deaths of children under age 5.

Globally, nearly one in four children younger than 5 is stunted due to chronic micronutrient deficiencies. Stunting is a condition linked to increased susceptibility to common illnesses, lower levels of academic achievement, and lower lifetime earnings, said UNICEF in its recent report, "Improving Child Nutrition: The Achievable Imperative for Global Progress".

Severe acute malnutrition is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate attention. According to the World Health Organization, there is a 30 percent to 50 percent mortality rate for children younger than 5 who develop severe acute malnutrition.

How ambitious were the N4G commitments? Altogether, leaders pledged an historic $4.15 billion to tackle malnutrition via investments in multiple sectors: agriculture; health; water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH); education; and social protection programs. They did so in the realization that nutrition is intertwined with all these sectors -- and that a person who is malnourished in early childhood can never reach her or his full potential.Commitments were made to new partnerships and scaled-up research. An annual Global Report on Nutrition was announced (the “first annual” report will be released in November 2014 at the Second International Conference on Nutrition). An annual global nutrition meeting alongside the UN General Assembly was initiated.  A Global Nutrition for Growth Compact puts nutrition at the center of the world’s development agenda. A group of businesses has pledged to improve the nutrition (and hence the productivity and health) of 927,000 employees in 80 countries. See a complete list of commitments.

A year after N4G, what progress has the United States made? The U.S. government has made nutrition a higher priority in meeting our global development assistance commitments. In a time of almost universal budget cuts, Congress reached a bipartisan agreement to boost funding for nutrition in the FY 2014 federal budget. USAID recently announced a new global multisectoral nutrition strategy. The agency credits the “strong advocacy and dedication” of civil society organizations such as Bread for the World Institute for the release of the strategy, which will “align our important global nutrition commitments.” The USAID strategy will be used to develop a U.S. Government Global Nutrition Coordination Plan, to include USAID, four cabinet-level departments (Agriculture, Health and Human Services, Treasury, State), the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the Peace Corps, and the White House. The plan is designed to accelerate “progress toward relevant WHA targets and other U.S. government commitments by maximizing the impact of government actions.” 

Civil society organizations, including those in the nutrition stakeholder community such as the Institute, are clearly a driving force in getting this high level of U.S. government commitment to nutrition. Legislative and non-legislative advocates are working seamlessly to increase funding for nutrition activities and to shape an effective policy and program operations agenda. USAID operational partners are designing nutrition projects that encompass several sectors of development assistance.

Of course, commitments and action by the governments of countries with high burdens of malnutrition are essential to success. To date, 51 such countries have come together in the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement in order to work -- governments and civil societies together – to expand successful nutrition programs. 

Working together, civil society will monitor the pledges made at N4G to ensure that they are honored. We will help ensure that diverse government nutrition policies and programs come together in the most effective way possible. Malnutrition is a major component of global hunger, so tackling it more effectively will bring us much closer to our very feasible goal, ending global hunger by the year 2030.

In a recent blog post, David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World and Rick Leach, CEO of WFP-US said: “From climate change to civil liberties, the world is at a critical point right now with many issues. Global nutrition is no different, and, as such, deserves adequate attention as its reach is vast and implications deep. Future generations depend on decisions we--governments, NGOs, faith leaders, community leaders, investors, scientists, educators, and others--are making and actions we are taking right now to ensure that they can reach their full potential. Not only can we reduce undernutrition--we must if our children's children are to thrive.”

Scott Bleggi

The People’s Choice: Immigration Reform

Most Voters Support CIR

When Rep. John Boehner became Speaker of the House of Representatives in 2011, he said, “This is the people’s House. This is their Congress. It’s about them, not us.”

Today, immigration reform increasingly seems to be the people’s choice – including people who are Republicans – but legislative reform is stuck. And the House of Representatives is the primary barrier.

Historically, one reason immigration reform has been difficult is the U.S. public’s ambivalence on the issue. Everyone agrees that the system is dysfunctional and needs to be updated, but there is disagreement on how to do so. Some (mostly on the right) want more border security and more expulsions of unauthorized immigrants. Others (mostly on the left) argue for an easy path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants and a generous policy toward future immigrants that is based mostly on family connections.

Although there are shifts in public opinion from month to month and from year to year, there is mounting evidence of a clear public consensus – a consensus built around comprehensive immigration reform policies similar to those in the bill the Senate passed last year.

In May, a Politico poll found that comprehensive immigration reform draws broad bipartisan support. The poll indicated that 71 percent of likely voters in competitive House and Senate districts supported comprehensive reform, while 28 percent opposed it.

The 78 percent support among Democrats is probably not a surprise, but the poll findings of 64 percent support among Republican respondents demonstrate that reform is now supported by major swaths of Republican voters. But many Republican House legislators – and those within Republican leadership – are reticent about moving on immigration reform.

Public opinion can’t be discerned from a single poll, of course, and there are other surveys that conflict with the Politico poll. But it is one piece of evidence that public support for immigration reform may be growing. Increasingly, however, it looks as though reform is stymied in the House – the same House that was touted as being a reflection of popular will rather the domain of politicians alone. Andrew Wainer

A Global Day of Action for Nutrition

2013 was an historic year for nutrition advocacy. As part of the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement, civil society organizations (CSOs) around the world committed to supporting and holding their governments accountable on plans of action to improve nutrition. SUN focuses on pregnant women and children in the “1,000 Days” from pregnancy to age 2, since this is the most critical period for human nutrition. CSOs can range from small groups working in community settings to nationwide alliances that advance common interests. The SUN Civil Society Network (SUN-CSN) was formed to establish and support SUN Civil Society Alliances (SUN-CSA), as well as to facilitate, communicate, and coordinate across the network.

In the lead-up to the 2013 G-8 summit in London and its Nutrition for Growth event, nutrition CSOs coordinated actions as part of a “Global Day of Action”. Their goal was to show global support for decisive actions at the G-8 to tackle food insecurity and malnutrition. CSOs from Bangladesh, Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia led events in their countries to increase awareness of the need for governments to make greater investments in programs and policies to overcome malnutrition.

This year marks an alignment of several key moments in global nutrition. The 67th meeting of the World Health Assembly takes place the week of May 19-23 in Geneva. This is an opportunity for countries to report on progress in achieving global nutrition targets that were set in 2012. The African Union Summit in June will focus on agriculture, food security, and nutrition. The Second International Conference on Nutrition will be held at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in November.

During the week of May 4-11, 2014,  a second “Global Day of Action” was held in many of the SUN-CSA countries. The goal was to influence both national nutrition policies and regional development agendas while also highlighting SUN-CSN as a “global, impactful, and agenda-setting network.”

The Global Day of Action’s objectives were:

  • Advance multi-stakeholder and multi-sectoral efforts to address nutrition as a priority and to scale-up nutrition intervention efforts;
  • Add to continued, growing public pressure on national leaders to continue their focus on nutrition, increase progress toward the 2013 WHA global targets, deliver on commitments to SUN and commitments made at the Nutrition for Growth event;
  • Increase the public and political profile of nutrition in member countries;
  • Highlight SUN-CSN as an effective international campaigning network; and
  • Show an inclusive, global constituency in support of nutrition.

We’ve already seen effective social media and press coverage of Global Day of Action events by SUN-CSAs using the Twitter hashtag of #ActingTogether4Nutrition in Zambia (@wchilufya), Bangladesh (@SUNCSABD), Ghana (@ghaccssun), Malawi (@CSO_Nut.Alliance), and Uganda (@UCCOSUN).

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Village heads in Zambia participate in the Global Day of Action for nutrition. Photo credit: William Chilufya

 Altogether, 19 country-level CSOs committed to displaying strong public support for nutrition issues.

At the inaugural meeting of SUN-CSN, in June 2013 in Washington, DC, I witnessed a real commitment from advocates from all over the world to share ideas and build a Community of Practice on efforts to scale up nutrition. SUN countries are those with the world’s highest burdens of malnutrition. They are working together with very limited resources in ways that are most impressive. I hope political leaders will take note of their advocacy and live up to their governments’ commitments to meet global nutrition targets by 2015.

Scott Bleggi

Data to End Hunger: Immigrant Poverty Data

Data poverty
It’s important for immigrants who are undocumented to maintain a low profile – in particular to avoid attention from the government. But this also makes it difficult to obtain data on this group, estimated to include 11 million to 12 million people.

Even basic data -- such as how many unauthorized immigrants are in the United States – are at best estimates based on an analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. To encourage full participation of immigrants in the census, the Census Bureau does not ask about immigration status. Neither is this information collected by any other government agency. The commonly agreed-upon figure of 11 million to 12 million undocumented immigrants is based on the work of research organizations, including the Pew Hispanic Trends Project, which analyze Census data to arrive at estimates of the raw numbers.

With no clear idea of exactly how many people are in the group, it is even more difficult to measure indicators of their socioeconomic status -- the data are even scarcer. For example, poverty rates among unauthorized immigrants:  there are several studies, but they arrive at different findings. On the lower side, the Pew Hispanic Trends Project estimated that 21 percent of unauthorized immigrant adults live in poverty, and one-third of the children of unauthorized parents (most of whom are U.S. citizens) live in poverty.

Those poverty rates are far too high for a wealthy country such as the United States – and yet they are lower than those found by other researchers. For example, the Public Policy Institute of California has estimated that roughly a third of all immigrants live in poverty.

The available data on poverty, while sparse and not consistent, is better than that on food security and hunger -- which is almost nonexistent. At the national level, there is data on food insecurity rates among immigrants. USDA estimates that during the period 2003-2010, 23 percent of recent immigrants, 25 percent of long-term immigrants, and 15 percent of naturalized immigrants were food insecure, compared with 18 percent for the U.S. population as a whole. But there is very little national-level data that looks specifically at food insecurity among unauthorized immigrants.

Most hunger and food insecurity statistics for unauthorized immigrants are only available at the state level, usually through university-led research. Even then, some of the research is dated and uses small sample sizes. Iowa State University found that 41 percent of Spanish-speaking respondents in Iowa were food insecure. But this was an inexact measure of food insecurity among unauthorized immigrants since Spanish speakers were used as a proxy. Similarly,  surveys in North Carolina found that food insecurity rates ranged from 36 percent to 42 percent among Latino immigrant families in the state.

The bottom line is that there is much we don’t know about the socioeconomic status of unauthorized immigrants. This is yet another reason to enact immigration reforms that legalize immigrants. In addition to the economic benefits for immigrant families, bringing undocumented workers out of the shadows will also help researchers better understand their socioeconomic realities, including how and why they experience poverty and food insecurity.  And identifying problems is an essential first step toward solving them.

Andrew Wainer

Legacy of the Great Recession: Latino Child Poverty

 Hispanic Children Hardest Hit by Great Recession

One of the legacies of the nation’s sluggish recovery from the Great Recession is continuing child poverty. Many groups were set back economically by the recession, but perhaps no group endured harsher consequences than Hispanic children, particularly Hispanic immigrant children.

In 2010, more Hispanic children were living in poverty—6.1 million—than children of any other racial or ethnic group. This was the first time in U.S. history that the single largest group of poor children was not white.

Part of this spike in child poverty rates among Hispanics is due to the mixed immigration status of many families. In numerous immigrant families, the children are U.S.-born citizens, but one or both of the parents is an unauthorized immigrant.

Hispanic children with immigrant parents are even more vulnerable to poverty (40 percent) than those with citizen parents (28 percent). This is due in part to the limited job opportunities open to immigrants and their circumscribed access to social safety nets.

Poverty is a complex issue. But it would certainly help the children of immigrants if parents could regularize their immigration status. Immigration reform, by enabling immigrants to better support themselves and their children, would contribute to lower poverty rates among immigrant and mixed-status families.

  Andrew Wainer

 

Humane Deportation Policy

Removals Rise through Three Administrations

Deportations have risen steadily through the last three U.S. presidencies. Under increased pressure, President Obama has pledged to review his administration's deporation policy.

Immigration advocates are continuing to take a “dual track” when it comes to pressuring the federal government on immigration reform, targeting both President Obama and House Republicans.

This week House Democrats introduced a discharge petition designed to force Speaker John Boehner to act on reform. As was predicted by both Democrats and Republicans, the measure failed, but it did draw more attention to the stalemate in the House.

While Congress remains mired, there may be more reason for optimism when it comes to administrative changes that improve U.S. policies on the deportation of unauthorized immigrants. The White House has been facing increasing grassroots pressure to stop deportations, and this month President Obama announced that the administration would review its deportation policy to see if it was possible to make it more humane within the bounds of the law.  

President Obama is working with both members of Congress and activists. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson has been directed to review his agency's approach. Reports from the media indicate there are some very sensible and middle-of-the-road solutions under consideration. One of them is to “ease or stop deportations of foreigners who have no criminal convictions other than immigration violations.” According to this report, deportation resources would be shifted to target people who have been charged with or convicted of crimes and may pose a threat to public safety.

Such a change may help ease the outrage of grassroots immigration activists, who point out that the Obama administration has already deported about 2 million unauthorized immigrants. Many of them faced no criminal charges and had been living in a family and working. The proposal would thus also help stem the separation of immigrant families.  Andrew Wainer

Pressure Mounts on Obama Administration to Defer Deportations

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A photo of an immigrant in North Carolina, who lives in the United States without legal authorization. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

During a 2008 television interview on a presidential campaign stop, then-Sen. Barack Obama told Univision anchor Jorge Ramos, “I can guarantee that we will have, in the first year, an immigration bill that I strongly support.”

Six years later, however, immigration reform remains mired in Congress. While the Senate produced a bipartisan comprehensive immigration bill in 2013, and President Obama supported it, it did not become the law of the land. Meanwhile, during the Obama administration, an estimated 2 million unauthorized immigrants have been deported – more than under any president in history.

After the Senate bill was passed, advocates turned their efforts to House Republicans, pressing them to engage with the Senate legislation and take action on reform. In the past year, House Republicans have taken small steps that led to a set of immigration reform principles seen as a major step forward in their thinking on the issue. Hopes for quick change were subsequently dimmed, however, when House Speaker John Boehner indicated that Republicans were unlikely to move on reform because they did not trust the president to enforce new immigration laws.

Advocates who see House Republications as a lost cause in the near term are increasingly focusing their frustration on Obama. They are led by Latino media personalities such as Univision’s Ramos, who has been called the “Walter Cronkite of Hispanic media.”

“There has been a shift within the Hispanic media,” Ramos said this month. “If you read the editorial pages in the most important Spanish language newspapers, you notice immediately how the conversation has changed from attacking Republicans to attacking Obama.”

Last week, this growing frustration caused President Obama to announce that the Department of Homeland Security will conduct a review of deportation policies to see if they can be done “more humanely within the confines of the law.” The announcement came after the president's meeting with a group of Hispanic members of Congress who directly conveyed the growing anger among the Latino community and immigration reform advocates.

Americans support legalization for immigrants: 73 percent have called for legalizing immigrants, while only 24 percent said that unauthorized immigrants should not be allowed a path to legalization or citizenship. As long as Congress remains stalemated, Americans’ strong support for legalization will not be reflected in national policy. Last week immigration advocates scored a win with the announcement of the Department of Homeland Security review, but it remains to be seen whether this announcement will ultimately result in relief for immigrant families. Andrew Wainer

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