Alexis Padilla at the Casa Del Migrante on the outskirts of Mexico City.

The CRS-supported Casa Del Migrante, located on the outskirts of Mexico City, works to assure the human dignity of migrants like Alexis Padilla is protected throughout their journey. Photo by Philip Laubner/CRS


The lack of options at home or for safe, legal migration has led to a significant long-term humanitarian crisis (particularly in the Central America-Mexico-U.S. region) in which violence experienced by migrants has become widespread and endemic. In 2009 alone, as many as 18,000 people were kidnapped as they sought to migrate to the United States. Thus, we are leading the Church's request to address factors that compel people to migrate. Catholic Relief Services' Catholic and NGO partners in Latin America are among the primary responders to these widespread humanitarian concerns. Increased legal migration options and reduced 'push factors' will have the greatest impact on reducing humanitarian concerns.

Research shows that in Mexico and Central America, youth and smallholder farmers are two communities especially likely to migrate. This has resulted in large measure from limited rural investment or sustainable poverty reduction strategies, as well as trade policies with the United States that have negatively impacted the ability of small farmers and small businesses to produce and sell products at prices competitive with large, often subsidized, U.S. based exporters.

CRS Position

CRS is a member of the Catholic Campaign for Immigration Reform, Justice for Immigrants. As such we support the request for a path to citizenship, path to legal work for future flows, expedited family reunification and restoration of due process. In our experience working with the world's poor and marginalized, CRS has witnessed firsthand the factors which compel people to migrate. Current U.S. immigration policies offer few safe or legal options for workers to immigrate to the United States, even in the face of clear U.S. labor demand.

Catholic teaching asserts that people have a right to migrate in order to meet their responsibilities to their families. It also teaches that people have a right not to migrate; that is, the right to the necessary conditions to provide for their families where they are. CRS works with the U.S. government, local partners and local governments to help people to thrive in their home communities.

Targeted programming by CRS with USAID and other partners, including local governments and the private sector, has helped these populations to find sustainable work at home. Youthbuild and ACORDAR are two examples. This non-controversial legislative language requires the Government Accountability Office to study factors which compel migration, and then requires several U.S. agencies to pull together a strategy to address areas where particularly high migration originates.

No immigration strategy is truly comprehensive and long-term if it does not address economic and social factors which compel migration. The recommendations include:

  1. Promotion of effective national poverty reduction policies
  2. Trade policies that provide greater benefit for poor farmers and small businesses in key migrant-sending countries
  3. Violence reduction
  4. Employment opportunities for urban youth.
  5. Related Links