The election earlier this month is causing a surge of immigrants from Central America who hope to cross the border into the United States before Donald Trump is sworn in as president. Reuters reports:
“We’re worried because we’re seeing a rise in the flow of migrants leaving the country, who have been urged to leave by coyotes telling them that they have to reach the United States before Trump takes office,” Maria Andrea Matamoros, Honduras’ deputy foreign minister, told Reuters, referring to people smugglers.
Carlos Raul Morales, Guatemala’s foreign minister, told Reuters people were also leaving Guatemala en masse before Trump becomes president.
As has been the case for several years, the surge from Central America stems primarily from the gang violence taking place there. Honduras has the highest murder rate of any nation not involved in a war. People are fleeing to avoid becoming victims:
Unemployed and sick of the lack of opportunities and endemic gang violence that blight his poor neighborhood in the town of San Marcos, south of San Salvador, Carlos Garcia, 25, said he was looking to enter the United States before Trump assumes power.
“There’s one thing I’m very clear about,” he said. “I want to get out of here.”
Reuters quotes a woman who traveled from Central America to Tijuana by bus with her entire family, “Nobody wants to die in a horrible way, and we can’t be in Guatemala any longer. My children are growing up in fear.”
That fear is what is driving the surge. These are not just people looking for a job. The gang brutality they are fleeing back home is real. They are not going to be dissuaded from trying to cross into the U.S. by threats of arrest or a big wall at the border. When the alternative is the very real possibility of a violent death for themselves or their children, they are going to take a chance.
The BBC reported earlier this month that a joint security force had been set up to tackle gangs who commit crimes in one nation and then flee across the border to another:
The force comprises police, military, intelligence, and border officials.
They will monitor cross-border crime along 600km (375 miles) of the frontier shared by El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
Increasing numbers of gang members commit crimes in one country and flee to another.
The NY Times reported recently on some American-backed efforts to quell the violence in Central America but it’s a difficult problem compounded by a judicial system that fails to arrest and prosecute most of the killers and corrupt police who rat out witnesses and make anyone who stands up to the gangs a target. Ultimately, if Trump wants to stop the flow of migrants he’s going to have to think about how to make people in Central America less desperate to leave.