Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Northern Triangle

Asylum

How many of you have been to the Statue of Liberty?  If you haven’t had a chance to go you should really make a point of it one day.  When you do be sure to visit the museum on Ellis Island.  The history of immigrants from the world over coming to a new land has helped shape what America is today.

The topic of asylum has been front and center in the media and in the halls of Congress.  The push for border security and the construction of an extended border wall on the United States border with Mexico and a lack of funding for it was the cause of the longest government shutdown in U.S. history earlier this year.

As of this writing, our politicians in Washington, D.C. have been unable to agree on the best way to move forward on immigration reform.  Democrats want reform that allows undocumented immigrants in the country presently to be able to remain in the country permanently.  Republicans want the southern border to be secure before they consider what amounts to be amnesty.  President Trump’s tough stance on illegal immigration has drawn the praise of his constituents and the ire of his detractors who feel this country was created by immigrants for immigrants.

There are some who feel no person is illegal and migration is a human right.  On July 13, 2018, the United Nations member states finalized the text for the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. Here is a description of that initiative from their siteThe Global Compact for Migration is the first-ever UN global agreement on a common approach to international migration in all its dimensions. The global compact is non-legally binding. It is grounded in values of state sovereignty, responsibility-sharing, non-discrimination, and human rights, and recognizes that a cooperative approach is needed to optimize the overall benefits of migration while addressing its risks and challenges for individuals and communities in countries of origin, transit, and destination.

This year we have seen a tremendous uptick in the number of people attempting to cross illegally into the United States via the southern border with Mexico.  Multiple thousand-person caravans have made the journey from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.  Those three countries located in Central America are commonly referred to as the northern triangle and are some of the poorest nations in that region. Violence and lack of economic opportunity are at the heart of the decade’s long exodus of its citizens.  If a person does not feel safe and does not see an ability to thrive economically in their country they will do as many of their countrymen have done before and travel north to America and request political asylum to achieve their goals.

There are many who feel that a person requesting asylum should do so in the first safe country they arrive in outside of their own.  The immediate countries surrounding the northern triangle are Mexico and Belize to the north and Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama to the south.  While some of the migrants have undoubtedly settled in some or all of those countries and may have requested asylum the majority choose to bypass those countries on their way north to the United States.

It doesn’t take a genius to see that economic opportunity in the United States is the main draw for many around the world.  Along with migrants from Central and South America being apprehended at the southern border citizens from countries as far away as India, China and over a hundred different nations are counted amongst those making claims for asylum. 

According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s site Southwest Border Total Apprehensions for the fiscal year, 2019 are on a pace to reach close to a million people.  To put that into perspective total southern border apprehensions for the past five fiscal years averaged 500,816 per year. There are estimates that for every person caught attempting to gain entry illegally there are three that are not. If that estimate is even close to being accurate we will see an explosion in our illegal population in the immediate future.

On March 29, 2019, frustrated with the inability to stop the ever-growing number of caravans coming from Central America President Trump instructed members of his cabinet to cut off all financial aid to Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.  Since Trump understands he needs the approval of Congress to proceed in withholding what amounts to approximately $700 million dollars in aid the assistance will be continuing until an agreement is reached. Trump has also threatened Mexico with trade tariffs and closing the southern border if they do not do more to stem the tide of narcotics and illegal migrant crossings.

There are some pundits in the media and in newspapers who claim that by eliminating aid it will only result in additional caravans.  That may be accurate.  What is also accurate is that it is not the responsibility of the U.S. or any other country to support any other country financially.  The asylum laws in this country were not designed for people looking for a better job.  If a country is unable to improve its economy and relies on foreign aid along with remittances from its citizens living abroad that is something the politicians of those countries need to remedy.  Continuing down the path of foreign aid and paying it in the form of a ransom so we hope the northern triangle countries will try and stop their citizens from heading north is a fools game.

A portion of the poem at the Statue of Liberty reads, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” While America will always be a place that welcomes immigrants who are in search of a better life those same immigrants must respect our borders and our rule of law.

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