04/18/2014 01:56 pm ET Updated Aug 06, 2015

19 Reasons Latin Americans Come To The U.S. That Have Nothing To Do With The American Dream


The conventional wisdom says that most Latin American migrants who come to the United States are looking for a better life, inspired by the "American Dream." And it's hard to deny that there's a lot of truth in that.

But there's another side to the story -- people leave Latin America because life there can be very hard. Poverty, political instability and recurring financial crises often conspire to make Latin American life more challenging than in the U.S., a wealthy country with lots of job opportunities.

Living on the northern side of the U.S.-Mexico border, it's easy to view Latin America as another world, isolated from the United States. But the truth is that the U.S. government has historically made life in Latin America harder by overthrowing democratically elected governments, financing atrocities and pushing trade policies that undermine Latin American industries, dealing blows to local economies. Perhaps instead of building walls, the United States should focus on being a better neighbor.

Here are 19 ways the U.S. government has helped spur immigration by making life harder in Latin America.

19 Reasons Latin Americans Leave Their Countries

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article misstated that the Nixon administration supported the Argentine military dictatorship in 1976. In fact, it was the Gerald Ford administration. A previous version also stated that the Pinochet dictatorship lasted for "decades" rather than "nearly two decades."