On June 26, DCID-affiliated professor Sarah Bermeo wrote:
It is an outdated notion that people from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras are primarily looking for economic opportunity in the United States and, therefore, should wait in line for a visa. For people fleeing these countries, waiting for a visa can result in death, rape, or forcible recruitment into crime.
A recent report from Doctors Without Borders (MSF) states that these Northern Triangle countries are experiencing “unprecedented levels of violence outside a war zone” and that “citizens are murdered with impunity, kidnappings and extortion are daily occurrences. Non-state actors perpetuate insecurity and forcibly recruit individuals into their ranks, and use sexual violence as a tool of intimidation and control.”
These countries rank in the top 10 in the world for homicide. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, as leader of U.S. Southern Command in 2014, said that cartels and gangs, fueled by the U.S. demand for drugs, “have left near-broken societies in their wake.”
The U.S. government argues that people fleeing these places do not fit the technical definition of a refugee, so the U.S. is not obligated to offer them asylum. Yet they fit the spirit of agreements on refugees adopted after World War II. The U.N. refugee agency has concluded “that a significant percentage of those fleeing… may be in need of international protection, in line with the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.”
Under current U.S. policy, most individuals from Northern Triangle countries are subject to deportation. The Obama administration stepped up enforcement following the 2014 surge in unaccompanied minors, in an attempt to deter future arrivals. The Trump administration has recently implemented an even tougher stance. MSF calls these policies “a death sentence for Central Americans fleeing violence.” There are documented cases of individuals being murdered in their home country after being deported by the U.S.