A record number of Central American migrants coming to the United States are showing signs of mental health problems, according to a new survey from Doctors without Borders.
The nonprofit group, known by its French acronym MSF, found that nine out of 10 migrants seen by its doctors suffered from anxiety or depression, a number that has tripled in two years.
The report, which MSF shared exclusively with The Guardian, indicated the mental health problems were the result of trauma — rape, assault or kidnapping — the migrants faced on their journey to U.S.
Ramped-up border security measures have partly led to an increase of violence against migrants, MSF psychologists told The Guardian, adding that two-thirds of migrants they interviewed said they were the target of at least one violent attack. The thousands of unaccompanied children and families are already fleeing brutal violence at home.
The migrants, largely coming from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, must take riskier routes to get to the U.S. border as American forces, working with Mexico, increased its surveillance of known migrant routes.
In 2014, at the U.S.’s urging, Mexico launched its “Programa Frontera Sur” to stem the flow of migrant children traveling alone across its southern border.
The U.S. State Department has already spent $15 million in equipment and training in Mexico and is expected to spend a total of $75 million, according to a Congressional Research Service report released earlier this year.
For the thousands of unaccompanied, undocumented minors fleeing brutal violence in Central America and attempting to enter the U.S., making the case to stay isn’t easy. Because they aren’t guaranteed a lawyer, about half of these children are forced to navigate the complex immigration system alone. Now, a class action lawsuit is challenging that policy. NewsHour’s Ivette Feliciano reports.
When the crisis caught the Obama administration’s attention in 2014, many of the Central American migrants rode atop a freight train, known as “La Bestia,” that traveled north through Mexico.
Now, with these immigration clampdowns in place, migrants have to walk for hours in isolated areas, and have to protect themselves from robbery, kidnappers, rapists and human traffickers, The Guardian reported.