There is a broad consensus that taking infants away from their mothers and putting them in separate cages is not an acceptable way to treat families who cross our border. Our nation concludes now that migrants from Central America don’t deserve to have their innocent children tortured by our agents. But, there are still disputes about what the migrants do deserve.
The White House stipulates that migrants should be caged with their families, however, the judiciary contends that child migrants shouldn’t be caged, instead they should be given rights. And some people believe that migrants are entitled to more than what they are getting from the U.S.
The White House has been badly criticized for its treatment of the Central America migrants. However, it has consistently defended its zero-tolerance policy – the policy that jails people who seek asylum for the minor offense of coming into the United States. It does so by telling the critics that their focus is on the big picture: the illegal migrants have already lessened the effectiveness of the legal control in the U.S. and brought violent crime, MS-13 and drugs to our country. The act of locking up migrants might seem cruel when looked at in isolation; however when it is understood keeping in view the bigger context of an illegal migrant crisis that poses a threat to the sovereignty and safety of Americans, the policy is justified.
However, in reality, this is a bizarre narrative that is nowhere near the truth: the context of the situation cannot excuse our government’s cruel zero tolerance policy. America isn’t suffering from a crisis that can justify its radical measures. The cause of concern is the fact that families from Central America gathered at the American borders are suffering and suffering enormously. These families are not bringing lawlessness and crime to America; rather, we have brought these conditions to their homelands.
America Created the Refugee Problem
The Bretton Woods Agreement developed in 1944 is a major reason why Central American countries are suffering from a debt burden. Moreover, in 1954, the CIA overthrew Guatemala government that was democratically elected and subjected the people of the country to years of civil war and dictatorship. The MS-13 was born from the prisons and streets of California and this happened because the immigration authorities of America deported the gang to El Salvador. Furthermore, the trade of drugs in Honduras is sustained by America’s liking for narcotics, and the United States’ war on drugs makes the drug trade more profitable for the criminal organizations.
There isn’t any simple answer to the refugee crisis. However, any policy response that is chalked out; needs to be one that is informed and justified. Before we proceed, we must realize that the U.S. isn’t the victim of the migrant crisis and the asylum-seekers aren’t the ones responsible for it.
No Threat to the United States
We are all aware that rates of violent crimes committed by native-born Americans are much higher than crimes committed by immigrants. And new research shows that violent crime rate is lower in states where there are more undocumented migrants. This means that immigrants are not a threat to the Americans and they are not responsible for the crime.
Asylum-Seekers Flee Violence, They Don’t Export It
Families from Central America experience great hardships for seeking asylum in the U.S. They travel thousands of miles through a desert –the route is swarming with thieves, homicidal gangs and rapists. The hazards of this journey are devastating in themselves, but migrants find that the risks of staying in their own country are far greater than these hazards.
Understanding this calculation isn’t hard. Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador have some of the highest violent crime rates and the level of corruption is also very high. In 2015, the most violent country (not at war) was El Salvador. The homicide rate at that time was 103 per 100,000. And most of these homicides weren’t punished. Reports show that in the Northern Triangle about 90% of murders aren’t prosecuted. Due to this lawlessness, the public has lost its trust in the police forces and rightly so. The police forces are non-professional, often penetrated by criminals and historically linked with carnage carried out during times of civil war and political unrest.
Trust of the public in other governing bodies of the region is also low. Because of bureaucratic inefficacy and corruption, the amount collected by Northern Triangle nations in tax revenues is less than what most of the other Latin American nations take. This combined with excessive spending on security agencies leave governments of the region with meager funding to aid public investment and social services. And the little funding that is dedicated to these services is eaten up by corruption.
While the governments of the region haven’t been able to collect taxes, the drug cartels of the region have collected great tribute. The newspaper of Honduras, La Parensa, revealed in 2015 that collectively over $651 million was being paid annually by citizens of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to criminal gangs and organizations. If people didn’t pay up, the criminals murdered them. Many Central American migrants who approach the United States to seek asylum claim that they are fleeing these kinds of homicidal acts. Their claims are credible as the criminal organizations are really torturing the citizens.
So, it is clear that the Central American migrants are only fleeing because of a real crisis. But, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the U.S. has an obligation to attend to the plight of these migrants. The United States government isn’t forcing the economic and political elites of the Northern Triangle to avoid taxes and engage in corruption. The U.S. doesn’t pay the security forces to not punish the murderers or sells weapons (directly) to cartels of the region. In fact, over $3 billion has been spent by the Congress in the last ten years to provide security aid to Central America. And yet — America still bears major responsibility for the troubles of the region because the failures of governance in the Northern Triangle and security challenges in these regions are linked to consumption habits and policy choices of our country.
The Bretton Woods Agreement
The Bretton Woods Agreement developed in 1944 created the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, a fixed exchange rate system and led to the U.S. dollar being used as the global currency. After World War II, most of the European countries were suffering from severe debt and wanted to escape from it. It became obvious that there wasn’t enough flexibility offered by the gold standard to navigate through hard economic situations. This is what justified the new Bretton Woods system in which the nations could trade in U.S. dollars. The IMF was the backbone of the Bretton Woods Agreement. The IMF provided a resource to help countries bail out when their currency started to lose its value. If nations couldn’t borrow funds from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), they would have no choice but to increase interest rates or employ trade barriers- the behavior that global leaders didn’t want to deal with. Borrowing from the IMF although seemed a better option, but it locked many countries into severe debt repayment plans that could never be met by them.
Bretton Woods Agreement stopped the growth of third world countries. As the American dollar become dominant, debts that were made to third world countries in dollars began to dominate those economies. Because of these dollar-based debts, third world countries cannot mature. This was the original intention of the Bretton Woods Agreement. Japan and Germany were able to repay their debts because they started making cars, but Asia, Africa and South America hasn’t been able to repay the debts. Due to this reason, the economies of Asian, African and South American countries have become constrained and they are in miserable condition. This is one of the major reasons the Central American countries are suffering from a terrible crisis and they haven’t been able to stabilize. The U.S. is responsible for their miserable condition.
Guatemala Subjected to Civil War
A democratic government was built in Guatemala in 1945 as a result of a revolutionary movement. But, nine years after the build-up of the democratic government, the U.S. brought it down. The overthrow of the government of Jacobo Arbenz was only to save the people of Guatemala from the tyranny of a communist. This is what the administration of Eisenhower orchestrated, however it was indifferent to the truth. In reality, the government was overthrown to deny the people sovereignty.
Jacobo Arbenz had public support and was democratically elected. He didn’t suppress the dissent nor did he suppress the constitution rule; rather, he attempted to address the inequality of his nation by redistributing the unused land of the UFC (United Fruit Company) to peasants.
This wasn’t an act of expropriation. The Guatemalan government had been robbed of the tax revenue by the UFC as the UFC vastly understated the total value of the company’s holdings. By seizing the unused land of the UFC, Arbenz provided land to Guatemalan families. As a result, poverty fell and agricultural production significantly increased.
The UFC wasn’t pleased with Arbenz’s actions. John Dulles, the Secretary of State and Allen Dulles, the CIA director had strong ties with the UFC. So, Arbenz was taken out by the U.S. government and in his replacement came a reactionary military officer who began using his dictatorial powers. After this, the civil war began between left-wing guerrillas and authoritarian government and the United States provided continuous support to the latter in the war. At least 200,000 people were dead when the fighting stopped in 1996.
Guatemala’s sovereignty was deliberately undermined by the U.S. which trigged decades of violence and civil war. If the CIA hadn’t intervened, the Northern Triangle wouldn’t be in such a terrible condition as it is in today. The democracy of Arbenz would have thrived through the 20th century and would have served as model of other Northern Triangle nations. The civil war gave people access to military grade weapons and demobilized men gained experience in killing. These men ended up joining criminal organizations that wreck havoc in the Northern Triangle now.
Criminal Organizations Sustained By American Policymakers and Drug Users
In the United States, the demand for drugs is highly concentrated. And the severe approach of the U.S. in reducing the high demand has only resulted in inflating the profits, which the criminal organizations in Central America can acquire by satisfying the growing illicit appetite of the Americans.
The drugs cost pennies to produce, however the value of these drugs has significantly increased. This is because there is a huge risk of losing the drug harvest to government officials because of the United States’ war on drugs. Most of the drugs that are prepared in Latin America flow to the United States for illegal sales. In this way, the trade of these drugs is closely linked with the U.S. prohibition of drugs.
Due to inflated costs, there is a great financial incentive for getting into the drug business, which compels criminal organizations to sell drugs despite the risks. The criminal organizations may lose a few of their products, but if any drug makes it in the market, they make a major profit. Therefore, drugs prove to be uniquely profitable for the criminal organizations.
The cost of prohibition and consumption of drugs falls on our southern neighbors. In fact, a few people have argued that the drug habit of America is responsible for the violence that prevails in the Northern Triangle. If Americans did not buy illegal drugs or perhaps the drugs could be accessed through illegal means, there would not be an illicit market of drugs that could fund criminal organizations.
MS-13 Came from the U.S.
The governments of Central America have been accused by Donald Trump for sending violent criminals to the U.S. — including the dangerous homicidal MS-13 gangsters. In truth, as discussed earlier, majority of Central American migrants are non-violent and self-selected.
But we can understand the mistake of Trump. After all, most violent criminals were sent to Central America by the U.S. itself. Los Angeles nurtured the MS-13, the American prisons hardened these gangsters and then they were deported to the Northern Triangle. It is true that the original members of the gang were Salvadoran immigrants who had fled the civil war of their nation. But when those immigrants came to California, they were only troubled teenagers; it was the U.S. that transformed them into brutal killers. Salvadoran immigrants didn’t introduce crime and street gangs to America; America introduced it to them. The American prisons failed to rehabilitate these immigrants and they were transformed into criminals, which the world now calls MS-13. Thus, the United States government bears responsibility for the evolution of the MS-13.
U.S. Military Interventions
US backed military coups, corporate plundering and neoliberal sapping of resources has created instability, violence and poverty in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala which drives people towards the United States. Military interventions by the U.S. have undermined democracy and stability in the region creating vacuums of power where paramilitary alliances and drug cartels have risen to take control. CAFTA-DR – Central American/Dominican Republic has restructured these economies to be more dependent on the US and has weakened domestic industries. These are the conditions that drive migrants from Central America to the border of the United States. Since the U.S. caused these conditions, it must take responsibility for them.
Donald Trump doesn’t deny that Central American migrants hail from countries wrecked by instability and violence. But, Trump sees the troubles of the Northern Triangle as cause for refusing to take refugees. In his understanding, Honduras isn’t poor and violent because of complicated reasons related to politics and economics; it is in such condition because Hondurans live there. Therefore, the migrants from these countries aren’t looking to escape the pathologies of their nations, rather they wish to export them; they are not troubled masses who wish to be free, but virus-carrying insects that yearn to infest.
These sentiments of Trump reflect racism. If we call immigrants insects, we need to ask what created the barbarities they are fleeing from. Since we, the Americans, created the refugees problem, it is our responsibility to aid them at this hour of crisis. We can’t close our borders or lock away migrants from Central America. Trump’s policy is unjust and his actions are harsh.
The refugee crisis in the United States demands an effective and generous response. We shouldn’t close the refugee resettlement offices and block entry of people from Central America, instead we should welcome the vulnerable as we are responsible for their condition. It’s the least the United States can do to repay its debt to the people of Central America.