Refugees at our Door

Sonia Nazario has covered Central American immigration to the U.S. for decades, most recently reporting on the deadly conditions in Central American countries that have people fleeing north. In April 2019, her piece on why so many women are fleeing Honduras, one of the deadliest places in the world to be a woman, Someone Is Always Trying to Kill You,’ was published in the New York Times. In July 2019, her piece “Pay or Die” was published, in which she tackles perhaps the main thing fueling migration from Central America: corruption. 

As President Trump and his administration have prioritized securing our southern border, they have made several immigration policy changes that fail to treat Central Americans fleeing harm for what they are: refugees. 

Often these refugees are instead called “illegal immigrants,” though our country has signed international protocols and incorporated those protocols into our laws that allow those fleeing harm to seek asylum in the U.S. These asylum-seekers are being metered in at the border, where only a handful are allowed to ask for asylum at legal ports of entry per day, and most are instead forced to wait in cities like Tijuana until they are processed. If they are seeking asylum, they can be made to wait in Mexico up to a year until their immigration court date. Tijuana, for one, is the most dangerous city in the world, two or three times more deadly than the countries they are fleeing in the first place to seek safety. Migrants are targets in border cities, where cartels kidnap them, rape them, hold them for ransom, and pressure a U.S. relative to pay if they want to keep their loved one alive. 

The U.S. has long pressured Mexico to do its dirty work, to keep migrants from reaching the U.S. border and being able to ask for asylum. In September 2015, Nazario traveled to Mexico to investigate reports that Mexico, with U.S. funding, was conducting a ferocious crackdown on refugees fleeing violence in Central America. She wrote an article published on October 11, 2015 in the New York Times, titled “Refugees at our Door.” She also wrote an opinion piece, published July 2014, titled “The Children of Drug Wars,” in which she characterizes Central American immigration to the U.S. as a refugee crisis, not an immigration crisis. She organized a letter-writing campaign to representatives to urge them not to pay Mexico to send these refugees back to Central America.

In June 2019, President Trump threatened to impose a 5% to 25% tariff on Mexican goods until Mexico did more to stop migration. When the U.S. puts pressure on Mexico to act as the gatekeeper, it often means we are pressuring Mexico to deport Central Americans to danger, even to their deaths. There are 70 million refugees in the world today, more than at any time since the massive displacement of people following World War II. The U.S. must do it’s part.

Follow Sonia on Twitter to get constant updates on this topic: @SLNazario.

small OPED Photo_Page_1Please write to your congressional leaders (Search for them here). Tell them why you feel this is a misuse of U.S. government funds. Suggest what they should be doing instead.

Use sample text below:


I have followed Sonia Nazario’s reporting on Central American immigration, and am outraged that the U.S. is making refugees at our southern border wait in dangerous cities in Mexico where migrants are targeted for robbery, rape, and kidnapping. I’m also outraged that we continue to pressure Mexico to deport Central American refugees, who have the right to seek asylum at the U.S. border. 

I am asking you, as my representative in Washington, to do the following:

Please stand up for the refugees at our door. Don’t just stand by.


Your name, address, telephone number

NOTE: Please use your personal information because lawmakers listen to constituents.