Fears at Home and New Fears at the Border: Central American Families Face a Bleak Future

With the advent of new immigration policies, the agencies in charge of the implementation of the President’s Border Security Enforcement Improvement Plan have their orders in place. The new guidelines, which extend and expand their work at the US border subsequently increases their responsibilities that then, substantiate their claim for the hiring of more border agents. Vetting the incoming asylum seekers to a “greater” extent and making preliminary decisions about the authenticity and legitimacy of “credible fear” interview information, which had been the purview of asylum officials, places an immense burden on the agents. Furthermore, immigration courts have amassed a huge amount of cases that can’t be processed in a timely manner without hiring more immigration judges. Most asylum cases take anywhere from two to five years to finally reach their court proceedings.

In light of the substantial lack of resources, the Administration’s approach to conduct their policy changes is to take a hardline approach. The following paragraph succinctly refers to the Central American mothers and their children who have heretofore believed that they can find refuge in the United States, away from the dangerous and deadly environments in their home countries: (See Homeland Security document, page 7:

     Accordingly, the Director of ICE and the Commissioner of CBP shall ensure the proper enforcement of our immigration laws against any individual who-directly or indirectly- facilitates the illegal smuggling or trafficking of an alien child into the United States. In appropriate cases, taking into account the risk of harm to the child from the specific smuggling or trafficking activity that the individual facilitated and other factors relevant to the individual’s culpability and the child’s welfare, proper enforcement includes (but is not limited to) placing any such individual who is a removable alien into removal proceedings, or referring the individual for criminal prosecution.


Perhaps, some of the border crossers can be successful in their pursuit of claiming asylum.

    However, according to the new guidelines, even parents that accompany their young children can be arrested and charged with an illegal smuggling activity.

Displacement Due to Criminal Violence and Related Factors
     Millions of people around the globe are forced to leave their homes due to conflict and/or general violence which place them at great risk for their lives. In the Americas, countries which have been surveyed for the surge of displacement are the following: (approximate numbers)
Mexico – 281, 400

Guatemala – 248, 500

El Salvador – 288, 900

Honduras – 29, 400

Colombia – 6, 044, 200

Peru – 150, 000

The reasons for internal displacement varies according to each country, and although the affected populations were forced out of their homes, some people became “refugees” and “asylum seekers.” Some of the internally displaced people become “protracted”, that is, they would return but later had to again leave for fear of their lives. Internally displaced people from the Northern Triangle countries in Central America sought refuge in nearby countries such as Costa Rica and Nicaragua. But, most set out to find a new home in the United States, preferably with family members or close friends that had settled there. (See Global Overview 2015: PeopleInternally Displaced by Conflict and Violence, page 16)

From the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras approximately 714,000 people have been displaced and although the data do not breakdown the numbers, there is considerable speculation that most displacements are due to criminal activity, and individuals that can find the means by which to migrate to the United States will do so.

Explaining the “why” and “how” of displaced people from Central America is difficult, filled with complexity that involves historical nuances as well as compulsively natured factors. (See “SnapShot”). Decisions to leave their homes to find a new beginning are unequivocally complex and extremely stressful, but in the broader context, given that the United States is a country where freedom abounds and the opportunities for a better quality of life is eminent, people make the decision accordingly.

Solving the Problems Include Very Difficult Changes

     The infrastructure of the Northern Triangle Countries has been transformed dramatically due to the gangs’ criminal behavior, which carry out crimes such as extortions, murders, and kidnappings in similar ways. The gangs from Honduras label their extortion moneys as “impuestos de guerra” as if to legitimize their crime within a context of war. Criminal gangs from El Salvador use the label “renta” which has an anglicized comparability to a similar linguistic transfer used in the US among Spanish speakers.

The funds extracted through criminal means have become a strong aspect of the countries’ economies. In El Salvador, approximately $390 million results from various extortions and related criminal activities; in Honduras, criminals exhort $200 million and in Guatemala, $61 million.  (See La Prensa). and WOLA, Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas.)
Thus, a huge amount of “dirty” money circulates throughout each country’s economy and as in most economies where illegal funds become readily available, white collar crimes such as money laundering are often an integral part of the picture.
The US has committed to providing aid to the three countries, and in accordance to this kind of outreach, certain stipulations or provisions are attached to the funds. Approximately, $750 million was allocated in 2016 while $743.6 million is expected to be approved for 2017. The funds are earmarked for the design and implementation of projects and activities that are specifically related to the “root causes” of the problems.

The intentions to address the problems seem adequate and appropriate, such as 1) community-based programs for youth and to assist former gang members to become better integrated into the mainstream society and to help children that have suffered violence; 2) to support programs for the purpose of enhancing transparency and accountability so as to combat corruption and provide more access for citizens to participate in the democratic process; 3) a focus on strengthening civilian law and make appropriate institutions more accountable and transparent; 4) focus on job training and education efforts; and 5) ensure that community members are consulted and involved in the evaluation of the funded programs.

However, the context by which to incorporate the funded efforts may not be appropriately strong and stable enough to ensure that the efforts are not just mere gestures to show the US and the citizens that they are sincere and determined to make the right changes. Perhaps, the barriers to change are too integral and permanent to eliminate and replace with the kind of activities that will result in sustainable change. The implementation of the proposed projects and all related activities need the careful and precise focus on ensuring their intended success.

Please see article for related information: Trump’s Cruel Choice: Who Gets to Stay.

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