…the United States’ meddling foreign policy and a history of the U.S.’s own harsh immigration measures are responsible for much of the pressure causing this flow of people from Central America. These eight facts, ignored by the mainstream press and the president, document that culpability and point out the need for change:
1. There is no “lax enforcement” on the U.S./Mexico border. There are over 20,000 Border Patrol Agents; that number was as low as 9,800 in 2001. We have walls and a system of large, centralized detention centers that didn’t exist just 15 years ago. Now more than 350,000 people spend some time in an immigrant detention center every year. The U.S. spends more on immigration enforcement than all other enforcement activities of the federal government combined, including the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The growing numbers of people in detention—young people as well as families and adults— is being used as a pretext by the anti-immigrant lobby in Washington, including the Tea Party and the Border Patrol itself, for demanding increases in the budget for enforcement. The Obama administration has given way before this pressure.
2. The migration of children and families didn’t just start recently. It has been going on for a long time, although the numbers have recently surged. The tide of migration from Central America goes back to wars that the U.S. promoted in the 1980s, in which we armed the forces, governments or contras, who were most opposed to progressive social change. Many hundreds of thousands of Salvadorans came to the U.S. during the late 1970s and 80s, to say nothing of Guatemalans and Nicaraguans. Whole families migrated, but so did parts of families, leaving loved ones behind with the hope that some day they’d be reunited.
3. The recent increase in the numbers of child migrants is not just a response to gang violence…