Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


International Relations

Reader 1

Jennifer Taw

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© 2016 Rebekah D Vermillion


Why was the United States caught completely unprepared for the Central American refugee crisis during the summer of 2014? Although thousands of unaccompanied children from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador streamed across the southwest U.S. border in unprecedented numbers, the systemic problems plaguing the region stem back decades, and recent data clearly shows a trend of increasing yearly migration flows to the United States from these countries. Even in the face of the crisis, the U.S. government’s response was targeted more towards mitigating the symptoms of the crisis while insufficiently addressing its underlying causes.

This is largely due to U.S. domestic policy, which undermines and conflicts with sound foreign policy. By focusing attention and resources on domestically popular foreign aid programs—primarily security initiatives and drug interdiction—rather than on programs to address the underlying, systemic causes of the crisis, like rampant corruption, lack of rule of law, and extreme poverty, U.S. policy-makers worked against their own best interests. As a result, the number of migrants crossing the U.S. southwestern border is once again rising rapidly. U.S. domestic and foreign policy must be reconciled to ensure that now and in the future, the root causes of migration crises are dealt with once and for all.