A radical solution needed for immigration crisis in Central America

Monday, 2018-10-29 15:46:12
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Thousands of Central American migrants are walking through southern Mexico in hopes of reaching the US. (Photo: EPA)
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NDO – The United States has become the promise land of a huge influx of migrants from Central America in recent days. The Washington administration has struggled to set up walls, both literally and figuratively, to stop the aforementioned caravan of migrants. However, the reality proves that this method cannot radically resolve the current migration crisis in Central America.

Sources from the US media say that the influx of migrants from Central American countries into the US is estimated to reach roughly 8,000. These days, the migrants are mostly farmers and students, who start from the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula and go through the Guatemala territory with a total distance of up to nearly 2,500 km. In many ways, including risking their lives by crossing the border via waterways, the migrants have flooded into Mexico and are seeking to enter the US through illegal immigration. However, the current wave of migrants has been blocked by the Mexican border security forces at the southern border gate.

In reality, the influx of migrants into the US has been happening quietly for years, as people in Central America are forced to flee abroad to escape violence and poverty in their own countries. According to World Bank data, more than 500,000 people cross the border each year into Mexico to reach the final destination, the US. However, the extraordinary surge in the caravan of migrants over recent days is attributed to the increased poverty and violence, especially in Honduras. This is one of the countries with the highest rates of violence and poverty in Latin America with the ravages of drug gangs. More than two thirds of Honduras’s population are living in poverty. The latest figures from the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) show that in September alone, the agency arrested nearly 16,660 illegal immigrants, an increase of more than 900 compared to the previous month and approximately 12,000 against the same period of 2017. Thus, September 2018 reported a record high number of illegal migrants to the US, mainly from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. US officials considered this as an “unprecedented border crisis” in the history of the US, with many implications enclosed.

US President Donald Trump considered this a national emergency and alerted the US patrol and army forces to prepare for a prospect of confrontation when the caravan of migrants, including thousands of people of all ages and genders, head towards the border. In his message published on Twitter, President Trump announced that he would mobilise military forces to prevent illegal immigrants. US Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis has instructed the military to set up a detailed plan for deploying troops to the southern border, with an estimated 800 to 1,000 soldiers. Accordingly, the soldiers are expected to be deployed to support the border patrol forces this October 31.

The US administration’s rigid immigration policy, with the erection of walls preventing the influx of immigrants, both literally and figuratively, has met with opposition from many of its neighbours as well as within the US itself. Some critics said that the Trump-proposed plan to build a security wall along the shared border with Mexico may be a “catalyst”, driving the Central American migrants to strive to get to the US on the “last buses” before everything becomes too late. Many migrants hope that the huge size of the current migrant influx will force the Washington administration to “rethink” its immigration policy and let them into the US.

On the other hand, the US “turning its back” on Central America in terms of the migration issue by implementing “policy walls” is also causing the immigration crisis to become more serious. For example, President Trump recently announced cuts to the aid for three Central American states - Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, because the governments of these countries have failed to block the migration wave to the US. Earlier, the White House also stated that it will sponsor only US$100 million for the efforts of the United Nations and countries receiving migrants, much lower than the demand of billions of US dollars. The US authorities have also reduced the reception quota of migrants at refugee camps to a record low of below 30,000 people per year, while planning to request the expulsion of 200,000 El Salvador people in September 2019 and roughly 90,000 Honduras people in early 2020.

According to analysts, in order to radically resolve the current flood of illegal immigrants, the US needs to work with its neighbours and the international community to find a long-term and comprehensive solution, to facilitate peace, stability and development in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, and bring better lives to the people in those countries. This will help to prevent more people from joining the waves of illegal migrants to the US.