BY ISN STAFF | June 15, 2017

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks during the opening session of the Conference on Prosperity and Security in Central America [SOURCE: Department of Homeland Security, via Twitter]

The Jesuit Migration Network of Central America and North America has expressed dismay about the upcoming Conference on Prosperity and Security in Central America, co-hosted by the United States and Mexico in Miami from June 15-16. According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security John F. Kelly and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, in partnership with the Government of Mexico, will lead participants in two days of discussions regarding economic growth, security, and stability in Central America.

The multi-national Jesuit Migration Network, which accompanies migrants and refugees and studies and promotes policies that honor the human rights of these groups, in a statement voiced “deep concern” that the conference “will address prosperity from a lens that is purely economic and informed by the private sector, and that it will address security with an approach that ignores human rights and further militarizes borders.”   

“The network maintains that supporting repressive, military approaches are not a solution to migration,” says Yolanda González, coordinator of the Jesuit Migration Network and a staff member at Radio Progreso/ERIC, a Jesuit-sponsored social action institute based in Honduras. “Investing in security forces does not address the root causes of migration — and increases the vulnerability of communities,” notes González. 

The Jesuit Migration Network also called upon Mexico and the United States to “uphold their responsibilities in providing international protection to those fleeing violence” as a moral obligation, as well as a responsibility under international human rights conventions.

Kristen Lionetti (second from right) policy director at the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States participates in panel discussion in Miami where human rights perspectives were offered on the situation in Central America.

To offer another perspective beyond the Conference on Prosperity and Security, on June 14 the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the U.S. participated in a briefing in Miami on Central American migration and the U.S. response. The event included civil and human rights organizations, community advocates, faith groups and policy experts discussed the root causes of migration from Central America from a civil society and community perspective.

“We are concerned about the conference for a number of reasons, including focus on prosperity as defined by the private sector, security with the aim of stemming migration flows, the absence of discussion on human rights, international protection, and root causes as understood by people affected by them,” shares Kristen Lionetti, policy director in the advocacy office for the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States. Further concerns were articulated in a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, signed by the Jesuit Conference and other Jesuit Partners in Mexico and Central America.  

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