Home Originals Mass Migration and Violence in Central America

Mass Migration and Violence in Central America

The Rio Grande Valley sector is the busiest area for illegal border crossings, especially for Central Americans, into the U.S. (Photo: John Moore)

The underlying violence, criminality and institutional weaknesses of the Northern Triangle states in Central America (El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras) creates the very possibility of failed states on the US door step. This poses a potential risk of a contagion that might lead to instability and possible conflict at both a subnational and regional level. The institutional weaknesses of these states results from the convergence of the threats posed by:

  • domestic and transnational non-state actors
  • the widespread break down of traditional societal structures
  • the failure of governing institutions to meet the most basic obligations owed to their     citizens under the “social compact.”

The political chaos, public corruption, mismanagement of scarce resources, and epidemic levels of violence has reached such an extreme, that governments within this region no longer exercise effective sovereign control over large parts of major urban and rural areas, and the borders of their national territory.

This has culminated in a humanitarian crisis leading to the uncontrolled migration of unaccompanied alien children (UACs) and families heading north to escape the seemingly intractable levels of violence and poverty.

Unaccompanied Children and Immigrants ride freight trains on a dangerous journey to the United States.

The huge influx of migrants and refugees seeking asylum in the US has exceeded US Government (USG) capacity to properly address their humanitarian needs and has caused an internal crisis of public confidence within the US and the Northern Triangle countries. This mass migration of UACs and families has also challenged our traditional concepts of fair process under the law, given the understaffed and under resourced immigration courts that must adjudicate complex claims for asylum and refugee status. Under the Trump administration’s mass deportation policy, the immigration process has turned into an express train to deportation and a form of due process, which can be fairly characterized as “kangaroo courts.”

The mass deportation of children and families to face gang violence and possible injury or death is inconsistent with international humanitarian norms. The unintended consequence of a US policy of mass deportation is that it will almost certainly undermine our standing to encourage humane and principled conduct on the part of other states in their handling of mass refugees fleeing violence and war in Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

The “Social Compact” is defined as “the voluntary agreement among individuals by which, according to any of various theories, as of Hobbes, Locke, or Rousseau, organized society is brought into being and invested with the right to secure mutual protection and welfare or to regulate the relations among its members.”

The mass migration from the Northern Triangle may be further aggravated by the drought conditions affecting the Northern Triangle that has severely affected crop production, resulting in food shortages affecting as many as 2.8 million people.


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