In reality, poverty, threats of violence, and instability have forced many Central American families to leave their home countries.
Republican lawmakers are blaming President Joe Biden and his immigration policies for inspiring immigrants to come to the U.S.-Mexico border, despite evidence that many are in fact leaving their home countries for various other reasons, most of which have little to do with Biden himself.
Biden dispatched Vice President Kamala Harris back in March to focus on both curbing and exploring the root causes of immigration from Central America, namely the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. So far, the vice president has held discussions with the presidents of Guatemala and Mexico to discuss the matter, including the ways in which poverty, violence, and lack of economic opportunities in those regions are prompting families to leave their homes.
But GOP lawmakers are re-aiming the conversation back at Biden, claiming that he and his administration are to blame for immigrants seeking refuge in the United States.
"We don't need to look into the 'root causes' of the border surge. The migrants told us why. Joe Biden invited them #bordercrisis," Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) tweeted on April 14.
On the same day, Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL) tweeted, "The 'root causes' of the CRISIS at our southern border are the Biden administration's open border policies."
And on Tuesday, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), tweeted, "Stories of overcrowded facilities are a direct result of the Biden Admin's decision to rescind Trump policies. The WH must to [sic] address the root causes of illegal immigration - a good place to start would be reimplementing the Remain in Mexico policy and the asylum agreements."
McCaul was referring to the Migrant Protection Protocols implemented by Donald Trump, which forced immigrants to wait out their asylum cases in inhumane and unsafe tent camps across the border in Mexico.
Despite the claims, immigrants are not simply making the long trek to the border because they were "invited." Rather, the decision by immigrants to come to the United States is most often based on complex and substantial hardships in their home countries.
In a January report, The Brookings Institution stressed the urgency in addressing those challenges.
"Economic problems, ongoing violence, worsening corruption, and challenges to democracy have been aggravated by the devastating impact of the coronavirus," senior fellow Charles T. Call wrote.
He continued, "Although all three governments of the Northern Triangle — Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador — borrowed heavily to extend massive support packages, especially to the poorest sectors, it may take years to recover from virus' economic consequences."
Call noted, for instance, that Honduras, already the poorest nation in mainland Latin America, "is the most serious challenge."
"With a poverty rate of 48% and a middle class of only 11% in 2015 (much lower than the 35% regional average), it is no surprise that Honduras became the largest source of migrants to the U.S. in the past few years," he said.
To make matters worse, more than 100,000 people were displaced after Hurricanes Eta and Iota wrecked the region and destroyed agriculture.
Guatemala, meanwhile, is afflicted with brutal gang violence and drug traffickers, as well as high rates of poverty and inequality, Call noted.
While femicide, the killing of girls and women, is a serious issue in all three Northern Triangle countries, it is the most prominent in Guatemala, he said.
The country's human rights ombudsman, Jordán Rodas, told EFE Agency, an international news agency, in January that the government has not been responding to the unprecedented deaths of Guatemalan women.
In 2020 alone, more than 300 women were found murdered, the outlet Plaza Publica noted.
And in El Salvador, political corruption and gang power over communities plagues the nation.
According to a 2020 Human Rights Watch report, many of those immigrants who left El Salvador and were later deported back to their home country by the United States ended up brutalized by the very same forces they had tried to flee in the first place.
"No government, UN agency, or nongovernmental organization has systematically monitored what happens to deported persons once back in El Salvador," the group wrote. "This report begins to fill that gap. It shows that, as asylum and immigration policies tighten in the United States and dire security problems continue in El Salvador, the US is repeatedly violating its obligations to protect Salvadorans from return to serious risk of harm."
The group added, "Increasingly, the United States is pursuing policies that shift responsibility for immigration enforcement to countries like Mexico in an effort to avoid any obligation for the safety and well-being of migrants and protection of asylum-seekers. As ever-more restrictive asylum and immigration policies take hold in the US, this situation — for Salvadorans, and for others — will only worsen."
The situation in Central America is only expected to worsen, absent major immigration policy changes.
According to an April 15 Congressional Research Service report, the contraction in economic growth in the region due to the coronavirus crisis is expected to exacerbate poverty and income inequality.
"Latin America already was the most unequal region in the world in terms of income inequality, according [to] the U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC)," the group reported. "A March 2021 ECLAC report said 22 million people in Latin America moved into poverty in 2020, with overall poverty rising to 33.7% of the region’s population from 30.5% in 2019."
Republicans' attempts to place blame for border apprehensions on Biden is part of a larger strategy to paint what is happening as a crisis of his making.
Though experts have cautioned that any spikes in apprehensions are likely due to seasonal shifts in migration and repeat attempts to enter the country by asylum seekers turned away due to the pandemic, the GOP has powered forward, blaming the current administration and suggesting the problem is not human rights abuses so much as the immigrants themselves, who they claim present national security threats to Americans.
"The crisis @POTUS and @VP have created on the border is only getting worse by the day. The root cause isn't Central or South America; it's this Administration," Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL) tweeted on April 16.
"Our national security is on the line, and our 'leaders' are MIA. We need leadership now."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.