By Allan Wall, May 5, 2020
Recently, both Mexico and the United States have been under fire for their deportation policies, because both countries have wound up with thousands of Central American detainees.
Our two countries have been criticized for sending Central Americans back to their own countries without testing them for the COVID-19 coronavirus.
How did we get in this situation?
The patterns of North American immigration have changed in recent years.
It used to be that most of the illegal aliens crossing the border from Mexico to the United States were Mexicans who crossed the U.S.- Mexico border illegally.
But in recent years that has changed. Central Americans from three countries – Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras – became the majority of the illegal border crossers. Since those countries are in the northern part of Central America, they became collectively known as the “Northern Triangle.”
The complication was that most of the Central Americans crossed through Mexico to get to the United States. Mexico did detain and deport some of these illegal crossers. But most were simply allowed to cross Mexican territory, since most didn’t plan to stay anyway.
This situation set the stage for all sorts of problems – the “caravans” of many illegal aliens traveling together, the “unaccompanied minors” traveling without their parents, and the abuse of our asylum process.
The critics publicized the problems to work toward their real goal – an open border between the U.S. and Mexico.
A year ago, President Donald Trump took action. Thinking outside the box, Trump utilized his foreign policy authority to make great progress on border security.
Trump threatened Mexico with tariffs if Mexico did not reduce the quantity of illegal Central Americans (and others) crossing Mexican territory to get to the United States.
It worked! The Mexican government did not want the tariffs and so cracked down on the Central Americans, greatly reducing (but not eliminating) the flow.
That was followed up in the past few months by the worldwide coronavirus crisis. Because of COVID-19, even Central American countries began tightening their borders. The U.S. instituted a policy of the immediate expulsion of unauthorized Mexican, Guatemalan, Salvadoran, and Honduran crossers.
As the old saying goes, where there’s a will, there’s a way.
However, there were already thousands of Central American detainees in both the United States and Mexico. So what do you do with them?
At this point, the U.S. and Mexico are going to be criticized no matter what they do.
If they keep the Central Americans in custody, the detainees are in danger of contracting COVID-19.
Thus, we have the practice of releasing illegal aliens (and homegrown criminals) on our own soil.
On the other hand, if these detainees are released to return to their own countries in Central America, then the U.S. and Mexico are accused of spreading coronavirus.
And it’s true that many deported Guatemalans have turned out to have COVID-19.
A May 2nd NPR article by Carrie Kahn, entitled Migrant Advocates Call For More Testing Before Deportations, begins by saying that “migrant advocates say more testing must be done in the U.S. and Mexico before deportees are sent back to their home countries.”
According to an Associated Press article on April 30, all the Guatemalan deportees on a recent U.S. deportation flight were tested before being flown out, which is what the Guatemalan government wanted, so maybe that problem has been solved, at least for Guatemalans being deported back home.
As for Mexico, the previously-cited NPR article says that deportations from that country back to the Northern Triangle “have accelerated in recent weeks.”
The INM, Mexico’s immigration bureaucracy, says it has sent 3,500 Guatemalans, Salvadorans and Hondurans back to their home countries, and now has only about 100 detainees left. (That doesn’t include un-detained Central Americans in Mexico, of whom there are still many.)
The open borders boosters really don’t want people to be deported.
But the real solution to problems in Central America is to solve the problems there, not export the people from their homelands.
This coronavirus crisis gives us a chance to apply tough love and help other countries do just that.
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