CAP TIMES Article Cites Organization that Prevents Migration by Helping Kids in Mexico

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Some 57,000 children have been sent unaccompanied by their parents to the United States because of the rise of violence in Mexico and Central America. The Madison, Wisconsin, based organization Canyon Scholars is a model for preventing migration to the United States described in the August 13, 2014, edition of the CAP TIMES.

The plight is now coming to light of some 57,000 children sent unaccompanied by their parents to the United States because of the rise of violence in Mexico and Central America. They are kept in army installations, shelters, and church facilities in the U.S. The flow has increased to crisis proportions, doubling each year since 2011. Members of Bethel Lutheran Church in Madison in conjunction with a Catholic parish in Mexico recognized the beginning of this tragedy in 2000 and took action to try to prevent the need for migration across our southern border by establishing Canyon Scholars as described in the August 13, 2014, edition of the Cap Times in an article by Jack Westman, U.S. Coordinator.

Canyon Scholars is a U.S.-sponsor-to-Mexican-family program that aims to enable our southern neighbors in the Copper Canyon to remain and thrive in Mexico. It offers scholarships to children so that they can continue their education beyond the sixth grade in addition to technical support to enable their families to be self-sustaining in the face of the governmental eradication of illegal crops.

Over 500 young Mexicans are Canyon Scholars in junior high schools, high schools, technical schools, and universities or are gainfully employed. Our first law school graduate works as an advocate for the Tarahumara Indians. Canyon Scholars are forming an alumni association that hopefully will become the mainstay of the program.

Our 2014 follow-up of 246 Canyon Scholars from 2000 to 2006 revealed that only three had migrated to the U.S. and only three are unemployed. So 98 percent are continuing to study in Mexico or are gainfully employed largely in their native Sierra.

In the last 10 years violence due to narco traffic and organized crime has affected the Copper Canyon region as much as any in Mexico, since it is the principal drug trafficking route from the “Golden Triangle” of Sinaloa, Durango, and Chihuahua, where marijuana and cocaine are grown and refined. In order to keep up with student movements because of narcoviolence, our Mexican coordinators have had to follow our Canyon Scholars into their new locations.

As an example, in April 2013, one of our students in the 12th grade in a Copper Canyon town and her family suddenly disappeared due to the threat of violence. They resurfaced in the state capitol of Chihuahua, where they made contact with one of our Mexican coordinators. She helped our student enter a high school in Chihuahua, where she graduated and entered the university to complete her first year in becoming an agricultural technician. She wants to help farmers in the Copper Canyon increase their productivity.

One of our Mexican coordinators continues his rounds in the Copper Canyon as an economic development adviser for communities and families in water conservation and in adopting drought-resistant fruit-bearing plants and trees.

Legislators have political reasons for suggesting tougher border control measures, but there still are plenty of Americans who care about children wherever they live.

As our government pulls back from humanitarian commitments abroad, the nonprofit sector and churches can offer people of good will opportunities to address inequities in other parts of the world and the extreme poverty that results.

Canyon Scholars offers an evidence-based model for preventing migration from south of our border that merits consideration.

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Jack Westman

Jack Westman