“To Americans, the most obvious sign of the crescendoing migrant influx is children,” my colleagues wrote. “The Biden administration is continuing a Trump-era policy of expelling most unauthorized adult migrants. But officials have decided to accept unaccompanied children.”
The reality, though, is one more of continuity than change. The same unsuitable facilities that housed thousands of asylum-seeking minors under Trump are packed once again under Biden. Thousands of migrants are being turned away at the border or expelled every day. Local officials, aid workers and immigrant advocates have long-standing complaints over backlogs in asylum applications and border authorities ill-equipped to be custodians of frightened, desperate children.
“The emergencies of the past decade are really three chapters of the same struggle: an exodus from Central America has been under way, as families and children attempted to escape violence, poverty, and government corruption,” wrote the New Yorker’s Jonathan Blitzer. “The immigration system at the border, which was built up in the nineteen-nineties, with single, job-seeking adults from Mexico in mind, was not designed to handle a population seeking asylum on this scale. On average, it takes almost two and a half years to resolve an asylum claim, and there’s now a backlog of 1.3 million pending cases, up from half a million under Obama.”
The Biden administration allowed reporters to go inside a crowded immigration facility in Donna, Tex., for the first time on March 30. (Drea Cornejo/The Washington Post)
Moreover, according to analysts, the new influx started almost a year ago in April. “But it’s shot up recently because of a combination of factors,” my colleagues reported. “Pandemic-induced economic crises, two hurricanes that ravaged Central America, the end of strict coronavirus lockdowns, and a perception that the Biden administration will be more tolerant of migration.”
The key countries in question are the three nations of Central America’s so-called Northern Triangle: Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. For years, the countries have been hobbled by ruinous governance, natural disasters and an epidemic of gang- and cartel-driven violence.
“If the alternative was famine, gang violence, kidnapping, rape or sexual slavery, wouldn’t you bet it all on the journey north?”
More so than its ultranationalist predecessor, the Biden administration recognizes that the solutions to what it describes as the “challenge” at the border lie much further south. Soon after taking office, Biden announced a $4 billion plan to invest in the Northern Triangle nations — roughly doubling U.S. assistance to those countries with a slate of programs aimed at helping improve quality of life, restructure the security forces and counter both gang violence and official corruption. The White House tapped Vice President Harris earlier this month as the point person in its efforts to address the “root causes” of Central American migration north.
Then there’s the United States’ long and undistinguished track record in attempting to help develop and reform these countries. “Why, after so many decades of systematic support by the U.S. directed at Central America’s structural challenges, has the situation in the region not significantly improved for millions of its peoples?” asked Luis Guillermo Solís, former president of Costa Rica, in an essay laying out the challenges for U.S. policy-making in the Northern Triangle. “What factors have impeded and continue to obstruct the aspirations of Central Americans who endure the hardships of lives dominated by fear, dispossession, sickness, corruption and hunger?”
As the Biden administration struggles with a growing border crisis, long-waiting families hope their requests for asylum in the U.S. will finally be heard. (Jon Gerberg/The Washington Post)
Solís pointed to a history of U.S. agencies misspending in the region but, more importantly, to a series of entrenched local factors: a legacy of “undemocratic, unfair, repressive and opaque political systems, largely dominated by clientelism, authoritarian practices, state-sponsored violence and disrespect for the rule of law” that have now yielded states with frail institutions and endemic corruption.
Of course, the United States in the past played a major — and often negative — role in underwriting those clientelist regimes. Now, though, the Biden administration may focus more on lifting up the region’s fledgling civil society. “There is so much corruption. It is really endemic and pervasive through a lot of the government structures,” a U.S. official told the Daily 202’s Olivier Knox. “We’ll make sure that there are the right kinds of safeguards in place so we know our assistance has real impact.”
Source by www.washingtonpost.com