Two articles recently shed light on the genesis of the current crisis (several years old as it is) of Central American children flooding the United States.  Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage – two of the right wing’s prolific “opinion makers” – proclaim loudly and endlessly that this crisis is Obama’s fault and that it’s a huge conspiracy to import more Democratic voters, illegal or otherwise.  Based on historical data (Fast and Furious, Birthers, Benghazi, IRS, etc.) I could easily dismiss the right wing rhetoric about the “children” being drug lords, diseased, criminals, etc. but that leaves me with scant knowledge of how the current illegal immigration surge actually came to pass.  Frankly, I like to know the reality of what's happening in the real world rather than accepting any left or right wing fantasy concerning our numerous public policy issues and disagreements. 

The first piece of the children's immigration surge puzzle was put in place for me with my reading of the 2008 Trafficking Victims Protection Act that was designed to combat the estimated worldwide 700,000 annual trafficking victims and to provide assistance to countries where trafficking was occurring.  It privides special immigration status for youngsters, established that such folks would be housed, fed, evaluated for physical and mental conditions and, most importantly, would be adjudicated through an administrative court system separate from the usual Immigration judicial processes so that each case would be evaluated individually.  

So the “Obama is breaking the law by not immediately shipping all these folks back to where they come from” that Rush and Michael are screaming about, is, in fact, wrong.  What Obama was (is) actually doing is processing the children through the administrative and judicial system precisely as the 2008 legislation (signed into law by George Bush) required.  So much for the truth of that blather.   

But I did still wonder why it is that over the past three years there has been a surge of child illegals from Central America.  My second piece of enlightenment came from an article about the US and Columbia's success is squelching the drug production and distribution industry in Columbia.  The crackdown, after many years of effort, has been successful.  The article pointed out that the drug lords – those not in prison or dead – had moved their operations to Central America.  Now, given the geography of South and Central America, this made sense to me.  OK.  So now I have another piece of the puzzle in hand – the historical antecedents that have brought us to the situation we face today.  

This morning, I found the latest piece of the puzzle in a Washington Post article about conditions in Honduras.  (Honduras?  That small, seemingly irrelevant dot of a country is affecting our national interests? Yes, indeed!)  A “human interest” piece, several local citizens were quoted about why they took the significant risks associated with their illegal journeys to the US.  The article, through personal stories, depicts a country in the throes of a series of battles Honduras is not winning.   Many poor neighborhoods in San Pedro Sula (Honduras' second largest city at 1.2 million people near the borders of Guatemala and El Salvador) have been taken over by drug gangs.  Once the drug industry moved out from Columbia, the drug gangs spread through Central America and basically hold hostage poor folks in Honduras by demanding protection money with the subsequent action of taking over residents' homes for non-payment.  “They bleed you,” said Alvin Rolando Baide 34, who grew up in a poor San Pedro Sula neighborhood.  “They demand 80 or 90 percent of your salary.” These drug thugs are the only law in such neighborhoods.  This situation combined with the lack of jobs generally in Honduras, significant numbers of folks in poverty and the very active and remunerative promotion of transport to the US as a solution – no matter how dangerous or costly - by the coyotes (without whom, by the way, this problem would not exist at the current scale) has driven a hopeless population to dangerous and desperate action.  “Do you know why people migrate there?  Do you know? Because there is no work here.  There is no work,” said Ana Patricia who along with her children were deported back to Honduras from Mexico.  It costs anywhere from $4,000 to $8,000 to sign on with a coyote, who provides transport, food and shelter for the week or longer journey through Mexico to the border of the United States.

OK.  So it seems that poverty, drug gangs, lack of jobs, and hope for a better future are four forces driving Hondurans to risk the journey.  Even though the Obama Administration has begun a public information campaign in Honduras warning potential migrants that they will be deported if they make it to the US and two flights a day arrive at the San Pedro Sula Airport every weekday returning migrants, the surge continues.  Why?  In the words of Walsima Lizeth Amaya a 37 year old mother of four, who had worked at two local factories and (illegally) in a Mexican restaurant for a year.  “I looked all over.  I brought my papers to various companies.  I have experience, and I couldn’t find anything,” she said while being interviewed at a US border shelter.  

As noted, I readily dismiss virtually all of the blathering propaganda that the right wingers produce daily, but their misinformation invariably spurs me to find the real story behind their rants.  I hope there are plenty more people who do the same.  As with virtually every other ranting of Rush and Michael, it doesn’t take all that much to find out what’s really going on.  In this case it’s really simple.  Our current surge of young illegals stems from the provisions of the Anti-Trafficking Act, the spread of drug activities from Columbia to Central America, poverty and lack of jobs for local residents of these countries, misinformation spread to desperate folks about their prospects in the US and the free market driven activities of the coyotes who make loads of money from these desperate folks wanting to improve the future prospects for their children.  

Are we familiar with this narrative?  Of course we are.  Obama’s responsibility for all of this?  Not much.  The facts about the surge and what its genesis is?  Very logical.  Very clear.  But you wouldn’t know any of this information from listening to Rush Limbaugh or Michael Savage.  


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