June 29, 2019

The Roots of the Migrant Crisis and Human Rights (Part I)

Story by Risa Peris

This is a several-part focus on the migrant crisis in the United States and Central America. 

Most of the migrants come from an area of Central America known as the Northern Triangle. This includes El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. It is held that about three million immigrants from these countries have come to the United States. This migration occurred in significant numbers since at least since the 1980s. Each country in the Northern Triangle has experienced brutal civil wars and military coups. The US, under Reagan, exuberantly supported anti-Communist regimes. However, US involvement in this area dates back to the 1950s when the CIA was highly active in this region and likely fomenting and aiding anti-Communist sentiment. In the 1980s the CIA trained anti-Communist death squads in these countries. Terror ensued and normal life for the majority of these countries and its people was nearly impossible. Not to be partisan-blind but even President Carter supported the anti-Communist regimes – many already trained and ideologically focused since the CIA’s involvement in the 1950s. 

In the 1950s, Guatemala attempted to give land to Mayans and end exploitative labor. The problem was that the United Fruit Company, which owned a lot of land in the area cried foul and screamed Communism because their financial interests would be placed in jeopardy. The United Fruit Company was an American company that traded in tropical fruit grown on plantations primarily in the Northern Triangle. Paying wages or, at least, decent wages would have been detrimental to their company profits. 

What came next was bloody war led by the CIA and the people it supported and gang violence in crumbling infrastructures. These gangs, primarily MS13, were born on the streets of Los Angeles and not in the Northern Triangle as President Trump has stated or, at least, insinuated in several speeches. This will be explained in more depth in future articles. 

It is important to know the history of these countries in the Northern Triangle, their economies, US involvement, and their people in order to place the migrant crisis in context and, hopefully, to grow some sympathy for the approximately 144,000 migrants that have tried to enter the US relatively recently by claiming asylum or entering illegally. 

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