Letter from two former American ambassadors

“If you thought the caravans were bad, you ain’t seen nothing yet” was written on April 9 by James Nealon, former US Ambassador to Honduras and John Feeley, a former US Ambassador.

Excerpts:

So you hate undocumented and irregular migration from Central America? Well you’re going to hate it more now that the President has cut off aid to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, the countries from which the families and children we’re seeing at the southwest border are fleeing.

We have to ask ourselves, after seeing illegal border crossings drop to historic lows in 2017, why are we seeing a spike now? Three reasons: First, because we have a booming economy. As long as U.S. per capita GDP is 25 times that of Honduras, and as long as there are more jobs than job seekers, there will be a significant pull factor.

Second, though things have gotten better in the Northern Triangle (the murder rate in Honduras has been more than halved since 2012), all politics is local. For many people living in conflictive communities or rural poverty, things haven’t gotten better enough, quickly enough to meet their rising expectations.

And third, and maybe most importantly, the President doesn’t get that his own rhetoric is helping fuel the current surge of migrants at the border. The smugglers use the President’s own bombastic words as proof that the border is going to close and that if they don’t go now, it will be too late.

The reason we have “catch and release”, in which asylum seekers are released into the United States pending a far-in-the-future court date to adjudicate their case, is because those courts have a backlog of 800,000 cases. So rather than making a decision on an asylum request in real time, and repatriating those found not to have a valid case, everyone who makes a claim gets in, at least for awhile.

Rather than spend billions on a wall, rather than close the border, rather than cut off foreign assistance meant to fix the problem, why don’t we spend the resources necessary to fix the immigration courts? We wouldn’t tolerate an 800,000 case backlog at the DMV, so why should we tolerate it at the border?

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