FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Migrant Caravan Members Are Not a Threat to U.S. National Security

On January 14, 2019, another migrant caravan of about 1,800 Central American refugees—mostly from Honduras—began its treacherous journey marching across Mexico with hopes of reaching the U.S. border.  Unsurprisingly, U.S. President Trump responded to last year’s caravan by demanding neighboring governments stop the caravan, sending 5,000 more troops to the border, and threatening to close the U.S. southern border.

This new caravan offers an opportunity to highlight how the Trump Administration’s continued anti-immigrant rhetoric carries with it a dangerously mistaken premise that immigrants in the United States, at best, steal jobs from U.S. citizens, and, at worst, are dangerous criminals.

But do a couple of thousand impoverished Central Americans really represent a threat to the United States? Recent research on immigration suggests otherwise and provides insights into immigration that can help to better address the problem.

First, migrating families are not a threat to the United States. Researchers at the American Immigration CouncilNational Bureau of Economic Research and Department of Justice found U.S.-born citizens are far more likely to end up committing a crime and/or in prison than either legal or undocumented immigrants. Furthermore, the conservative Cato Institute documented in  2017how undocumented immigrants—including the young, the less-educated, and men—are, in fact, less likely to commit violent crimes than U.S.-born individuals. Finally, even newer research has proven states with higher percentages of undocumented immigrants have lower violent crime rates.

Second, Central American immigrants are not stealing jobs from U.S. citizens. Studies have long illustrated how Latino and other immigrant entrepreneurs complement, not hurt, the U.S economy, stating that “between 1990 and 2001, the U.S. regions with the most entrepreneurial activity experienced, on average, 125 percent higher employment growth, 109 percent higher productivity growth, and 58 percent higher wage growth than regions with the least entrepreneurial activity.”

Moreover, the United States is need of young, low-skilled workers, as it is facing an aging population, lower birth rates, and higher education levels. Thus, to remain competitive and sustain economic growth, the United States needs more, not less, foreign workers with little or no education.

Third, the United States exported violence and lawlessness to Central America. In 1954, the CIA overthrew Guatemala’s democratically elected government, installed a military dictatorship, and denied Guatemalans their popular sovereignty—all in assistance to the United Fruit Company the CIA director was invested in. Decades of civil war followed.

The United States also exported its most violent offenders and gangs to Central America. In the 1980s and 1990s, Central American gangs such as MS-13 and Barrio 18 began on California’s streets. L.A. introduced its gang culture to Salvadoran immigrant youth and turned them towards violent crime. Then, the U.S. mass deported back to Central America these L.A. gang members and other undocumented immigrants, who had grown up in the United States, barely spoke Spanish, and were unfamiliar with their countries of origin. In the Northern Triangle, they had few opportunities and sought out other gang members to survive.

So, if the United States wants to successfully reduce the number of migrants, it must continue to work collaboratively with Central America and Mexico to give people another way out of violence. Instead of building more walls and threatening Mexico, the United States should focus more attention on exporting its lessons learned in places like Los Angeles by funding more USAID programs in the most marginalized communities in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico.

In the 1980s and 1990s, L.A. faced the same challenges Central America does today—high homicide rates, police corruption, gang violence, and lawlessness. By shifting to a more balanced, community-based, public health strategy focused on why people joined gangs and what ultimately disengaged them, L.A. cut its gang-related violence in half. Youth joined gangs for protection, money, respect, and community, and creating social programs increased people’s access to education, training, counseling, income, and civic participation, enabling the poor and most vulnerable to gain greater access to and control over resources.

These lessons are an opportunity that cannot be wasted.

To reduce the number of migrant caravans in the long run, instead of focusing on higher security, the United States should focus more on the many things it can do to stop gangs, violence, and poverty. For example, increasing aid for more social programs is significantly more effective than policing at decreasing the incentives for youth to join gangs and ties individuals to their local communities making them less likely to migrate to the United States.

But to do this, the United States must first reframe its immigration narrative. It must rebuff the Trump Administration’s tall-tales about immigrants, stop viewing its southern neighbors as a threat, and embrace the reality—that people like members of this new caravan have not brought violent crime, gangs, or lawlessness to the U.S. Just the opposite. The U.S. exported those conditions to Central America.

The United States must also renew its partnership with Central America and Mexico not in terms of border security and enforcement but through a humanistic, public health lens.

Ultimately, the United States has to think beyond its own borders. What happens in Central America can reduce the number of border crossers into the United States and, thus, is good for the United States as well.

More articles by:

Kimberly R. Bullard is an M.A. Candidate in Latin American and Hemispheric Studies at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs. She is as an External Collaborator at the International Labour Organization in Lima, Perú. Previously, she worked as a Graduate Research Assistant at the Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute and a Research Associate at George Washington University’s Institute for International Economic Policy. She has researched and reported on violence, poverty, U.S. foreign policy, immigration, trade, human rights, and democracy in Latin America. She can be reached at kbullard@gwu.edu.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

Weekend Edition
June 14, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Trump’s Trade Threats are Really Cold War 2.0
Bruce E. Levine
Tom Paine, Christianity, and Modern Psychiatry
Jason Hirthler
Mainstream 101: Supporting Imperialism, Suppressing Socialism
T.J. Coles
How Much Do Humans Pollute? A Breakdown of Industrial, Vehicular and Household C02 Emissions
Andrew Levine
Whither The Trump Paradox?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: In the Land of 10,000 Talkers, All With Broken Tongues
Pete Dolack
Look to U.S. Executive Suites, Not Beijing, For Why Production is Moved
Paul Street
It Can’t Happen Here: From Buzz Windrip and Doremus Jessup to Donald Trump and MSNBC
Rob Urie
Capitalism Versus Democracy
Richard Moser
The Climate Counter-Offensive: Secrecy, Deception and Disarming the Green New Deal
Naman Habtom-Desta
Up in the Air: the Fallacy of Aerial Campaigns
Ramzy Baroud
Kushner as a Colonial Administrator: Let’s Talk About the ‘Israeli Model’
Mark Hand
Residents of Toxic W.Va. Town Keep Hope Alive
John Kendall Hawkins
Alias Anything You Please: a Lifetime of Dylan
Linn Washington Jr.
Bigots in Blue: Philadelphia Police Department is a Home For Hate
David Macaray
UAW Faces Its Moment of Truth
Brian Cloughley
Trump’s Washington Detests the Belt and Road Initiative
Horace G. Campbell
Edward Seaga and the Institutionalization of Thuggery, Violence and Dehumanization in Jamaica
Graham Peebles
Zero Waste: The Global Plastics Crisis
Michael Schwalbe
Oppose Inequality, Not Cops
Ron Jacobs
Scott Noble’s History of Resistance
Olivia Alperstein
The Climate Crisis is Also a Health Emergency
David Rosen
Time to Break Up the 21st Century Tech Trusts
George Wuerthner
The Highest Use of Public Forests: Carbon Storage
Ralph Nader
It is Time to Rediscover Print Newspapers
Nick Licata
How SDS Imploded: an Inside Account
Rachel Smolker – Anne Peterman
The GE American Chestnut: Restoration of a Beloved Species or Trojan Horse for Tree Biotechnology?
Sam Pizzigati
Can Society Survive Without Empathy?
Manuel E. Yepe
China and Russia in Strategic Alliance
Patrick Walker
Green New Deal “Climate Kids” Should Hijack the Impeachment Conversation
Colin Todhunter
Encouraging Illegal Planting of Bt Brinjal in India
Robert Koehler
The Armed Bureaucracy
David Swanson
Anyone Who’d Rather Not be Shot Should Read this Book
Jonathan Power
To St. Petersburg With Love
Marc Levy
How to Tell a Joke in Combat
Thomas Knapp
Pork is Not the Problem
Manuel García, Jr.
Global Warming and Solar Minimum: a Response to Renee Parsons
Jill Richardson
Straight People Don’t Need a Parade
B. R. Gowani
The Indian Subcontinent’s Third Partition
Adolf Alzuphar
Diary: The Black Body in LA
Jonah Raskin
‘69 and All That Weird Shit
Michael Doliner
My Surprise Party
Stephen Cooper
The Fullness of Half Pint
Charles R. Larson
Review: Chris Arnade’s “Dignity: Seeking Respect in Back Row America”
David Yearsley
Sword and Sheath Songs
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail