Returning to his racist, anti-immigrant rhetoric, President Trump wrote on Twitter Sunday:
We cannot allow all of these people to invade our Country. When somebody comes in, we must immediately, with no Judges or Court Cases, bring them back from where they came. Our system is a mockery to good immigration policy and Law and Order. Most children come without parents…
Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 24, 2018
….Our Immigration policy, laughed at all over the world, is very unfair to all of those people who have gone through the system legally and are waiting on line for years! Immigration must be based on merit – we need people who will help to Make America Great Again!
Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 24, 2018
There’s no universal description of what these people” look like, their history, their family and why they are seeking refuge. But the president is largely painting an inaccurate picture of who most of them are.
According to the Council on Foreign Relations, “Despite what the president says, the situation at the border is much more nuanced. There’s not a flood of people racing across the border. The majority of migrants aren’t dangerous criminals. Many are women and families and many are fleeing gang violence rather than seeking to spread that violence farther north.”
No matter who the migrants are, Trump’s narrative that people are swarming the border at alarming rates is not based in fact. In 2017, the number of people trying to enter the United States illegally was less than 20 percent of the number recorded in 2000 303,916 compared to 1,643,679.
The national dialogue has largely focused on immigration from Mexico, but people escaping violence are increasingly coming from nations in Central America. Immigration from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala a group of countries referred to as the Northern Triangle has risen by 25 percent between 2007 and 2015, according to Pew Research Center, with the most coming from El Salvador. According to the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), “Salvadorians make up the second-largest unauthorized immigrant population in the United States.”
The U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs does not recommend travel to any of these countries “due to crime.”
The Council on Foreign Relations reported, “Migrants from all three countries cite violence, forced gang recruitment, and extortion, as well as poverty and lack of opportunity, as their reasons for leaving.”
And it turns out the U.S. is partially to blame. According to Reuters, “More Salvadorans have been killed since the end of the country’s 12-year civil war in 1992, than during the entire conflict which killed an estimated 75,000 people.”
Reuters further reported:
When the U.S. government pumped billions of dollars into Colombia in the 1990s to combat the country’s drug cartels and stem the supply of Colombian cocaine to the United States, the problem shifted to Mexico, experts say.
In response, Mexico intensified its crackdown on the drug trade in 2006, prompting drug traffickers to move their transit routes to parts of Central America.
The incursion of Mexican drug cartels into parts of Central America, in particular El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, helped the maras expand their reach and power.
Although the U.S. has sent money and resources in attempts to aid the Northern Triangle, citizens of those countries remain in a daily violent nightmare thanks to drug trafficking. According to the Council on Foreign Relations:
Drug trafficking adds to the violence. U.S.-led interdiction efforts in Colombia, Mexico, and the Caribbean have pushed trafficking routes into Central America, and U.S. officials report that 90 percent of documented cocaine flows into the United States now pass through the region [emphasis added]. DTOs sometimes partner with maras to transport and distribute narcotics, sparking turf wars. In addition to the drug trade and extortion, criminal groups in the region also profit from kidnapping for ransom and human trafficking and smuggling.
Central American immigrants are less likely to seek entry to the United States for economic or family reasons than other Latino immigrants, according to Pew:
Central Americans were more likely than other Latino migrants to cite conflict or persecution as a reason they left 13% said that was the main reason they came to the U.S., compared with 4% of other Hispanic migrants [emphasis added], according to the National Survey of Latinos.
Gang-related violence also has roots in America. Mass deportations of gang members in the mid-1990s from the U.S. to Central America resulted in members re-organizing their efforts, notably in El Salvador.
“The violence today is a phenomenon fuelled by the actions of the U.S. government that saw mass deportations of mostly young men,” former congressman Raul Mijango reported to Reuters.
“Many of those deported had been part of criminal groups. They knew how to organize themselves and they started to build roots in their communities.”
Despite Trump’s rhetoric, though, these gang members are largely not the migrants seeking entry to the U.S. today. Members of MS-13 made up less than 1 percent of undocumented people who tried to cross the border.