SOURCE ALERT: USC experts on the border crisis

July 14, 2014

Does increased border security really make a difference? What kicked off the crisis? What are the longterm psychological effects of migrating as a child?

Contact: Andrew Good at 213-740-8606 or

Strong border security isn’t enough

Emily Ryo, Assistant Professor of Law & Sociology at the USC Gould School of Law, is an expert in immigration law and civil rights. She was recently honored by the American Sociological Association for a 2013 study on the motivating factors of illegal migration. The study concluded that people’s perceptions of the certainty of arrest and the severity of punishment are not the most effective deterrents when compared to other factors.

“The current border crisis involving the influx of unaccompanied minors from Central America is not going to be solved merely by strengthening our border security. The children are fleeing unlivable and violent conditions at home, motivated by the desire to reunite with their families in the U.S.; until those more basic issues are addressed, they are likely to keep coming.

“My study on unauthorized migration from Mexico suggests that the more we fixate solely on deterrence, the more difficult it might be for us to address fundamental issues that have to be addressed in the long-term if the goal is to reduce unauthorized migration.”

Contact: 213-740-3409 or

What started the crisis in 2011?

Manuel Pastor, Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts & Sciences, is an expert on economic inequality and macroeconomic issues in Latin America. He can discuss the root causes of the current crisis, in terms of policy and economic development.

“Over the last three years, as many people have been returning to Mexico from the United States as have been migrating across the other way. That means business is drying up for coyotes. This crisis could be a manifestation of them drumming up other business. While there’s a sudden spate of attention, this influx began to happen in 2011.”

Contact: 213-740-5604 or

What is the psychlogical impact of traveling to the border as a child?

Lawrence Palinkas, Professor of Social Work, Anthropology and Preventative Medicine at the USC School of Social Work, is an expert on the mental health of refugees. He can discuss the psychological impact that traveling to and being detained at the U.S. border could have on immigrant children and their families.

“Studies of unaccompanied refugee children and adolescents from other parts of the world suggest that a large percentage (between 20% and 50%) of the minors currently arriving from Central America will present symptoms of PTSD, depressive and anxiety disorders, or other mental and behavioral health problems. The risk of these problems is further complicated by the fact that these children are unaccompanied, thereby lacking access to social support networks, and at great risk for exploitation and exposure to violence during their migration to the United States. Moreover, these symptoms are likely to persist over time if left untreated.”

Contact: 858-922-7265 or