Central America’s Northern Triangle Migrant Crisis

The Associated Press published this article on the treatment of migrant children in the US.

These are the conditions in Honduras.

It is a criminal offense for individuals or media to engage in terrorism but the definition of terrorism is so broad that it includes peaceful protests.

A cyber security bill severely harms free speech by compelling companies that provide internet to censor content.

Security forces have opened fire on protesters demonstrating against voting corruption which has resulted in deaths.

3/4 of the 10,000 unit police force is corrupt, involved in embezzlement and organized crime.

Judges are not independent and face interference from the executive branch.

There is a dysfunctional justice system and low prosecution rates.

Honduras has the highest murder rate for a country not at war.

The current President doctored the constitution to allow for a second term causing a flash of protests.

Honduran citizens have no physical security, property rights, independent judiciary, political stability, rule of law, or functioning civil society. Similarly Guatemala doesn’t have these. Many factors in their history have contributed to the current condition of the northern triangle nations (Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador) such as foreign fruit tycoons exploiting workers, the local government seizing private farmland to sell off to fruit tycoon operations, dependency on one cash crop for economic sustenance (banana republic), severe crop blight that ravaged the economy, war, political revolutions, coups, Soviet-backed dictatorships, US disinterest in the region following the Cold War, inability to bounce back from these devastations. Simply put, they have a very poor people, very corrupt authorities and very criminal gangs.

So there is a humanitarian crisis in the region and many people are risking their lives to trek 1,000 miles with the intent of entering the US illegally, in fact half of migrants entered the US illegally in 2015.

Then there are pro-immigration advocacy groups who organize, orchestrate and coach migrants who are headed to the US-Mexico border. Instead of saying you’re coming to the US to work you should say you’re coming to the US because you’re fleeing persecution. In most cases that’s true. But it colors their migration with a belief that America is an open border nation when in fact we’re not. There is a rule of law migrants must adhere to, an immigration process. The destabilized nature of Central America is a deeply complex situation that has no simple fix. So migrants will keep coming. It’s not extraordinary for the US to want to guard its border, its resources and its people from the influx of a destitute people fleeing a destitute country. That’s a geopolitical statement.

Then there is the ethical sphere of the crisis. For the migrants that are here, what do we do about them? The US has a reputation that we adhere to, an ethical standard to treat people in a way that honors their civil rights. Especially the most vulnerable- children. Does that apply to illegal immigrants? I’m not asking a legal question. I’m asking an ethical question. My opinion is yes- when it’s children. Well that requires infrastructure spending to the tune of billions of dollars ($6 billion is one figure I read) to create medical facilities that languishing migrants are sent to so that they are removed from mere processing centers and detention facilities and treated humanely. We currently don’t have the infrastructure to be caregivers for migrants. The infrastructure we do have is for immigration processing but even that is not sufficient or efficient. There needs to be more immigration judges at the border streamlining immigration processes. There needs to be better communication within the levels of bureaucracy. When it’s an ethical question, we’re talking about throwing a lot of money and hands at the problem. Migrants depend on this inclination we have. They assume or at least hope that we overlook the criminal entrance for the sake of being humane. That’s a breathtaking undertaking though. How does a nation, even the most wealthy nation, be a guardian for all the destitute people of the world? How about just those on our doorstep? If I’m known as the lady who will always take in kittens the boxes of kittens on my doorstep will keep growing until I am maxed out.

Because the political stability remains rancid in the northern triangle, the ethical response will, ad infinitum, be exhausted. And everyone has an opinion to throw at it but what’s the solution? What’s for sure is the whole problem is devastating and emblematic of our existential fallenness. I think all US citizens have their heartstrings pulled for migrant children. A two year old put at risk by somebody (parents?!), but the risk they’re leaving is bigger than the risk they’re taking so he’s sent across a thousand miles, emaciated and sick he shows up at a US border facility that is a processing center, not a medical center, we have no border infrastructure to be his caregiver, in desperation he’s put in another older child’s care, agents scramble to find clean diapers for him (yes I’m willing to assume with confidence that the border agents are not sinister), fellow migrants try to convince him he can trust a shower. It’s all so devastating. And then the next month thousands more.

The problem is huge, there’s no simple solution and I don’t know where to begin. I think that’s where the forces that be find themselves too.

Central America’s Northern Triangle Migrant Crisis