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To Fix the Child Refugee Crisis, End the War on Drugs

A U.S. Border Patrol agent assists undocumented minors near the U.S./Mexico border
A U.S. Border Patrol agent assists undocumented minors near the U.S./Mexico borderPhotograph by John Moore/Getty Images

Congress closed for the August recess this weekend without passing legislation to address the child refugee crisis on the Mexican border. Nearly 60,000 unaccompanied children, most from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, have entered the U.S. across that border in the last nine months, fleeing spiraling violence in their home countries—murder, rape, and attacks carried out by rival drug gangs, and attacks by police on suspect gang members.

The refugee crisis is now our problem, which is appropriate: The drug-linked violence that the children are fleeing is in large part our fault. Anti-drug policies in the U.S. and Europe have not succeeded in curbing drug use or in raising drug prices, but they have considerably increased crime and violence worldwide. It is time to shift the effort to focus on helping drug users at home rather than battling drugmakers and traffickers abroad.