United States Vice President Joe Biden will travel to Central America (specifically Guatemala City) later this week to meet with the region's leaders to develop a coordinated response to the current flood of illegal immigration of Central American children to the US. Mr. Biden also wants to make clear that the Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which seeks to avoid deporting the children of parents who took them to the US illegally in previous years, does not apply to new arrivals. He will attempt to correct any misconceptions there may be about DACA. There's concern in the US that it is DACA, which took effect in 2012, that is fueling the problem.
Much of the criticism with regard to DACA is coming from conservatives who believe it's a misguided policy. According to Republican US Congressman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia's 6th District, "Word has gotten out around the world about President Obama's lax immigration enforcement policies, and it has encouraged more individuals to come to the United States illegally, many of whom are children from Central America."
Apparently, Mr. Biden will plead with parents in Central America to stop sending their kids illegally to the US. Of the projected 90,000 unaccompanied children from the region expected to try and cross into the US this year, some of them are as young as 4 years old. Apparently, the smaller ones arrive with notes pinned onto their shirts with their name and contact information of a relative already in the US.
In a statement read on Monday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the Obama administration wanted to convey to Central American governments that there are steps they can take to ensure the safety of their children and "dissuade parents from entrusting them into the hands of strangers to try to deliver them to the United States". Really? It will be interesting to hear Mr. Biden's enlightened words, because from the initial sound of it, it appears that neither the Obama administration nor a significant portion of the US public fully grasps the extent of the social and economic crises in Central America, particularly in the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras -- where drug trafficking and organized gangs are wreaking havoc on their societies.
Please wake up, America... US immigration policies have little or nothing to do with the growing Central American refugee crisis, now being driven by children trying to escape the violence in their countries and avoid being forcibly recruited by gangs and cartels. No amount of pleading by US officials will change the dynamic, because it has gotten to the point where many parents and their children in Central America truly feel they have everything to lose by remaining in their home countries. It used to be that the US offered a chance to escape extreme poverty and economic hopelessness. The US still offers this, but now it also represents an opportunity to escape being killed. That's a pretty powerful motivator.
The third leg of the US "Drug War" in Latin America has begun. First it was Colombia. Then it was Mexico. Now it's Central America. Wars have a way of creating refugees. Odd. Why should this come as a surprise to anyone?