A Wall At The Border Will Not Stem The Tide Of Refugees From The Northern Triangle Countries.
The Northern Triangle of Central America, refers to Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. The name originates from a trade agreement signed in 2001 between them, Colombia, Mexico and the U.S.
Today we continue to refer to these three countries by this same sobriquet, however with the understanding in mind that they represent the poorest, and most troubled countries of all Latin America.
The two biggest issues these three countries face today, is they individually possess some of the highest intentional homicide rates in the world, as well as the lowest annual per capita GDP (PPP) in all of Latin America.
Honduras occupies the unenviable distinction of being the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, second only to Haiti, while El Salvador has the highest intentional homicide rate in the world.
The following is a chart showing the challenges these three countries face:
Unsurprisingly, these three countries have been in the news recently for the large number of immigrants that have made the dangerous trek from their homes, to the Southern border of the U.S. seeking asylum.
When interviewed, the vast majority of these asylum seekers give as reasons for their decision to risk their lives and that of their children in the journey to the U.S., to the extreme violence as well as the unbearable poverty they face where they live. Crime gangs threatening the lives of their families on a daily basis, as well as economic despair seem to be the common thread.
In spite of the hype directed at these unfortunate people by the Trump administration, both political parties and the media, the Northern Triangle countries do not represent the majority of the undocumented population of the U.S. As the chart below shows, Mexico is the largest contributor of the unauthorized immigrant population representing 53% of the total.
In fact, this group of countries only represents 1.35 million out of the 11.3 million undocumented aliens in this country. Roughly 11.9%.
Asia on the other hand, represents 16%.
The combination of Caribbean, South American, European, Canadian, Australian, New Zealanders, and Africans represent a total of 1.933 million or 17.1%.
Although the number of undocumented immigrants from these countries is relatively small, what has brought notoriety to their plight seems to be their willingness to come to the U.S. border seeking asylum.
Compare that to Mexico’s undocumented aliens who typically slip undetected through the border and rely on friends and relatives who have come before them, for work and shelter.
Also compare them to all other alien group who overstay their visas; slip through the border with Mexico (as in the case of many Chinese people) aided by coyote gangs; or loaded on ships as in the case of the Chinese vessel the Golden Venture.
These surreptitious actions, have kept these groups from the cross hairs of the media and the Trump administration’s interests in exploiting any human tragedy for political ends.
The reality is that the calamity at the border has been long in the making and exacerbated by three actions that cannot be blamed on any other than Trump and his anti-immigrant senior advisor Stephen Miller: the withdrawal of foreign aid from these countries, although now partly restored by Congress; the continued underfunding of immigration courts and the lack of immigration judges; and the initiative to separate families at the border.
For a better understanding of the plight of Latin America from Colonial times to the U.S. interventionist period, read: https://medium.com/@jules000120/abused-and-then-forgotten-951c053abf52
The undeniable truth is that a wall is not going to solve our illegal immigration problem, neither will any other action so far proposed by the Trump administration. The particular problem of the immigrants coming from the Northern Triangle countries, can only be solved at the source, by directly intervening to solve the problems these countries face.
All throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, the U.S. has intervene in Latin American affairs at will. Sometimes for legitimate reasons, sometimes as cover for American corporate interests. These actions go back to 1856, when the U.S. went to war with Mexico and managed to annex large portions of their land.
All throughout the 19th century, U.S. armed forces intervened in Nicaragua, Cuba, Panama, Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic. Sometimes at the behest of corporations such as United Fruit Company and other Wall Street interests, other times as a way of keeping Communism out.
Notwithstanding, it can be argued that in some cases U.S. interventions were for good reasons or at least some that created plausible excuses. Some notable examples are in the 1918’s action taken in Panama to restore public order. Or in the case of Plan Colombia, a military and diplomatic initiative aimed at pushing back Colombian drug cartels and left-wing insurgent groups such as FARC and the ELN. Plan Colombia, carried a price tag of more than $10 billion.
Both FARC and ELN were brutal insurgencies financed by the Soviet Union as a way to destabilize the region and create another Communist dictatorship in Latin America. While the push-back component against the drug cartels was a failure, the threat of Communist insurgencies was greatly diminished.
The point being, that the U.S. has intervened in Latin America’s affairs many times over the last 170 years. Perhaps it is time to take a proactive approach to the two pressing issues in this region; extreme poverty and criminal gangs. Of course it goes without saying, hiring more immigration judges and improving conditions in detention centers should also be a priority.
While some politicians, experts, and even Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador have proposed a Marshall Plan type program for Central America, such a plan would not go far enough.
The original Marshall Plan was made up of a series of targeted investments into industries that were either destroyed during WWII or needed help in order to aid in an economic recovery that had already begun. It also helped in the creation of a legal framework that prohibited nationalization of companies, mandated balanced budgets, enforced exchange controls and oversaw regional economic policy.
However, what the Northern Triangle countries need is a plan that covers two areas:
- Reduction in poverty through foreign aid, investment in education, health, and job creation.
- Combat gangs, by having American military, intelligence and crime enforcement agencies partner with similar institutions from each country. This approach would be somewhat similar to Plan Colombia, but with a stronger law enforcement component.
Keep in mind, this area of the world is not nearly as large as Western Europe. The Northern Triangle countries only represent a total of 33 million inhabitants. The cost of an “Operation Central American Northern Triangle”, would likely be one tenth of the estimated $59 billion it would cost to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
Anyone thinking clearly will realize that addressing the problem of asylum seekers from this area at the source, is infinitely more efficient than building a wall that at best will only serve as a vane political spectacle.
Helping our Central American neighbors should go beyond any self-interests of protecting our borders, protecting American jobs, or whatever other convoluted reasoning those who fear immigrants put forth. This is a humanitarian issue that involves our neighbors and friends.