I don’t want to criticize Donald Trump, but when I feel my American friends and neighbours are misguided I believe I have to speak up. The fact is that Trump’s immigration policies are supported by millions of Americans. In fact it now appears likely that Trump will want to make immigration a hot issue in the next Presidential election just as he did in 2016. Will American support his policies?
In May 2019 more than 130,000 people were caught crossing the America border without permission. That number included 11,000 minors as more and more of the asylum seekers are families. These are levels that have not been seen in more than 10 years. And these are not just young men seeking greater economic opportunity as was the case a decade or two ago. More and more families are fleeing 3 countries from Central America known as the Northern Triangle. These include El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.
It is important to realize this is not an immigration crisis. These are not people trying to immigrate to the United States. They are fleeing serious dangers in their home country in order to claim asylum. They are refugees not immigrants. In accordance with international law and American law they are entitled to claim asylum and the US has to allow them into the country to make their claims and have them adjudicate.
American has always considered itself a generous country. I have always considered them a generous country. But—are they?
Secondly, it is important to remember that to a significant extent American policies since at least the time of Ronald Reagan have contributed in a major way to social and political deterioration in these countries. The US is not entirely an innocent bystander here.
Gang warfare and systemic violence in those countries have made life there so unbearable for many people that they feel they have no choice to flee even though they know things are very difficult in the United States and that they will not be welcomed by many Americans and they realize the American President is throwing massive barriers in their way. Yet they come.
In recent years there have been dramatic increases in the countries of the Northern Triangle. They have become some of the most dangerous places on earth. Many of them have been hounded by vicious gangs in their countries and along the way to America.
According to the USA for UN Refugee Agency,
“Current homicide rates are among the highest ever recorded in Central America. Several cities, including San Salvador, Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula, are among the 10 most dangerous in the world. The most visible evidence of violence is the high rate of brutal homicides, but other human rights abuses are on the rise, including the recruitment of children into gangs, extortion and sexual violence.”
Between 2011 and 2017, asylum applications from the Northern Triangle have increased 991 percent. Women, children and unaccompanied minor now make a large portion of those seeking asylum in the United States from the Northern Triangle. Currently 1.5 million children are out of school in Guatemala. It is an uncomfortable fact that school desertion often leads to confinement at home, child labour, forced or coerced recruitment into criminal gangs, and displacement from homes inside the country or into other countries. The consequences are often dire.
Thousands of Latin American parents have fled with their families. Often young children have made this perilous journey alone. Many of them are among the most vulnerable refugees in the world according to the UN Refugee Agency. Many have experienced horrific violence and extreme risks.
I find myself asking what would I do if a woman and her child knocked on my door seeking asylum. What would I do? I don’t know. I hope I would not shut the door and hide away from the problem in the darkness of my home. Is this what the United States is doing?
Understandably, the US has had difficulties coping with the huge numbers at their door. What are they doing? What can they do? What should they do?
I want to look at this issue.