Coming to America

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Coming to America
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Source: Andrea Estrada, UC Santa Barbara

The migrant caravan that traveled from Central America to the United States last month generated headlines — and angry rhetoric — long before it arrived. The situation reached fever pitch the Sunday after Thanksgiving when 500 or so migrants attempted to cross into the U.S. at the San Ysidro Port of Entry in Tijuana, Mexico. U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents responded by launching tear gas over the border.

Many of the migrants are seeking asylum, and almost all have been displaced from their communities —facts that two UC Santa Barbara social scientists argue have been omitted from the ongoing news coverage.

“The mainstream media has totally de-historicized and decontextualized the situation,” said Ralph Armbruster-Sandoval, a professor of Chicana and Chicano Studies. “They talk about gang violence, poverty and general misery, but without any background you’re left to wonder why that is. With no analysis or context, you’re thinking, ‘I’m a little bit sympathetic, but isn’t it their own government’s fault, and why don’t they just vote them out?’”

The problem is much more complicated, the scholars say, and decades in the making.

The U.S. Component

“The biggest question we need to ask is why this caravan is coming to the United States,” said William Robinson, a professor of sociology with affiliations in the campus’s global studies and Latin American studies departments. The answer, according to Robinson, lies in Central American history and U.S. policies that are responsible for “uprooting people and giving them no choice but to migrate here.”

This particular part of the story, he noted, begins in the 1970s and 1980s when Central America saw a number of radical and revolutionary upheavals aimed at overthrowing military dictatorships and oppressive family regimes that had been backed by the U.S. “That was successful in only one country — Nicaragua,” he said.

However, in the countries from which the majority of the current migrant caravans originate — Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala — similar movements, those among peasants, workers, students, women and indigenous communities, were not able to achieve the same kind of social justice.

“The role of the U.S. in trying to transform those systems in favor of poor and outcast majorities was to intervene militarily, politically and economically to shore up the elite social orders and to prevent any deeper democratization of these societies,” Robinson said. “Things did settle down a bit and there were negotiated peace agreements, but nothing changed in terms of small elites controlling all the resources and a vast dispossessed majority.”

Globalization, Agribusiness and Tourism

Fast forward to the 1990s and 2000s and the new era of globalization begins. “And that globalization is going to be promoted by U.S. and Central American elites,” he went on. “By the time you get to the 21st century, you have this massive transnational corporate takeover of the region’s resources.” Hundreds of thousands — maybe millions — of peasants in the countryside are displaced as transnational agribusiness comes in and sets up giant plantations and as upscale tourist complexes are set up as global playgrounds for the world’s “better off,” Robinson explained.

“One of the ways transnational agribusiness has come in and displaced so many is through the palm oil plantations,” he said. “These have swept through Honduras, and that’s displaced all these peasant communities, many of which were cooperatives and individual and small-scale farms. These palm oil plantations have become the big new face of agriculture in Honduras, and they’re run by Dole and all the big international fruit and agriculture corporations. It’s done for biofuel, or simply as industrial oil to export around the world.”

This, Robinson claimed, is the “biggest thing that has displaced hundreds of thousands in the countryside. That’s the big story the media doesn’t tell. There’s not a place for these people in their own countries, and that’s why they are migrating en masse.”

Add to that, the political situation, which enables repressive regimes and dictatorships to remain in power, according to Robinson, and terrorize the people they are meant to lead. “There are death squads that kill a peasant who might be wanting to get his land back,” said Robinson. “His body appears all bloody on the roadside. It’s a warning to others.”

Presidential Politics

The 2006 presidential election in Honduras is another example of democracy gone awry. Voters elected José Manuel Zelaya, a mildly reformist candidate who, according to Robinson and Armbruster-Sandoval, sought to improve the plight of the poor, dispossessed majority through a limited number of initiatives. One initiative called for raising the minimum wage for workers in the garment industry, particularly the sweatshops.

“And for that the military intervened and overthrew him in 2009 in a coup d’etat,” said Robinson. When the action concluded, Juan Orlando Hernández had been installed as president. “That coup was backed by the U.S. And ever since, the U.S. has continued to back what was considered an illegitimate government — one that came to power through a military coup that put an end to democracy.”

Hernández was reelected in November 2017 in a contest that, as Armbruster-Sandoval and Robinson noted, most of the international community declared as fraudulent. “And looking back at the Zelaya presidency,” Armbruster-Sandoval said, “would the sky have fallen if someone had been earning $1.50 an hour instead of $1.25? Probably not, and it might have mitigated some of the mess we’re in right now.”

Drug Wars

A third element that contributes to Central Americans’ decisions to uproot themselves is the issue of drug trafficking. “Teenagers are forced to go into the drug cartels or they’re killed,” said Robinson. “And the threat extends to their families.”

That the Honduran and Guatemalan military and police are deeply implicated in the drug trafficking business is “public knowledge,” he added. “They’re part of it. That’s well known. So these gangs and cartels organized around drug trafficking in extremely violent ways is integral to the military and police in those countries, and the military and police to this very day continue to receive military training and aid from the U.S.”

A Self-Induced Crisis

Considering the activity at the border, Armbruster-Sandoval described the current situation as a “self-induced crisis.” “You have to challenge the assumption from the get-go that there’s a crisis at the border, and you have to debunk the so-called facts one by one.”

He cited the use of the word “invasion,” which he said suggests some kind of armed force. “And that’s just not the case,” he said. He also noted the general association of migrants and criminality, arguing that studies have demonstrated that from 1980 onward, the cities with the highest immigrant populations have experienced the lowest crime rates.

“And we reap what we’ve sown,” Armbruster-Sandoval said. “Now people come here and we pull the welcome mat out from underneath them. What’s our responsibility to people that we basically forced to flee from their homes? We say, ‘sorry, go back where you came from.’ And if they go back home, frankly, they might die.

“They try to bring about change in their own countries and they’re slapped down,” he continued. “They come to the border and they’re slapped down again. What’s happening at the border is the effect, and if you aren’t looking at the cause, you’re going to be chasing your tail.”

news.ucsb.edu

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a-1566685017 Jan 23, 2019 12:28 PM
Coming to America

Venezuela...millions trying to get out of there...not just Americans who have been told to leave immediately.

NostraChumash Jan 23, 2019 11:13 AM
Coming to America

It's 1492 (or 1542, whichever one prefers), all over again, cept the shoe's on the other foot this time around. See?..it doesn't feel very good.

Abc109 Jan 23, 2019 07:26 AM
Coming to America

We could start with looking at all the businesses and industries that employ illegal immigrants. How about pointing a finger their way, too? Bueller?

a-1566685017 Jan 23, 2019 07:49 AM
Coming to America

Like CA agriculture! and Trump recreational properties. ============================================================== https://www.vox.com/2018/2/13/16466542/trump-h-2b-guest-workers ============================================================== https://www.sun-sentinel.com/opinion/fl-op-column-fred-grimm-mar-a-lago-20180712-story.html ============================================================== https://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/420302-trump-winery-petitions-to-hire-more-foreign-workers

ParvoPup Jan 22, 2019 07:05 PM
Coming to America

We are going to need a plan for migrations at a much larger scale than these in the next few decades. If the scientists are correct about the effects of Climate Change forcing mass migrations, we may be in a situation where we are looking not at a few thousand migrants, but a few hundred thousand or even a few million. I can't help but think that a lot of our future selves are going to be screaming about needing a wall.

a-1566685017 Jan 23, 2019 04:18 PM
Coming to America

1/23, 11:38 a.m: Have you HAD an abortion? It's not painful early on; not that painful overall. And I don't know any woman who wouldn't put up with discomfort, or severe short-term pain, to avoid having a child she could not properly feed, care for and educate. Where crime is really high is in war-torn countries where rape is a common tool of war and terrorism.

a-1566685017 Jan 23, 2019 04:11 PM
Coming to America

Oh, and work at his hotel properties and his vineyard.

a-1566685017 Jan 23, 2019 04:10 PM
Coming to America

Trump needs immigrants to do the jobs Americans won't do -- Like marry him. Bear his children.

a-1566685017 Jan 23, 2019 04:09 PM
Coming to America

But what you say has NOTHING to do with Trump. He is not religious, he simply spoke to, promised to and is USING the evangelical vote -- those voters who don't give a darn about his vile morality and lack of ethics, from horrible business practices to groping women.

a-1566685017 Jan 23, 2019 11:38 AM
Coming to America

it is very rare that someone uses abortion instead of birth control. It is an uncomfortable procedure that is very hard on the body and often causes a good deal of pain. Abortion is however important to have access to in places where crimes are high and women may not have much safety in terms of rape, domestic violence, etc. Such is the case currently in Central America. Again, the number of women who choose to utilize abortion over and over again as birth control is very small, much smaller than the number of women who utilize it for emergency, safety, or health purposes. I do not think it is right to use the small minority of abusers to withhold this procedure from the rest of the women (and men) whose lives can be improved by not having a (or another) child.

a-1566685017 Jan 23, 2019 11:16 AM
Coming to America

Except Trump has no religion. He is without ethics or moral principle. Trump is the evil that people fear when self interest is left loose.

a-1566685017 Jan 23, 2019 08:17 AM
Coming to America

Maybe his pup has Parvovirus ?

SantaBarbaraObserver Jan 23, 2019 08:10 AM
Coming to America

Religion is the scourge of the earth. Hopefully, Trump represents the last breath of a horrific era. There are no more hateful, inclusive, ignorant people than religious zealots. The sooner we as a people end their manipulation and control over political policy and our personal lives, the sooner we heal and move past the era of willful ignorance and controlled stupidity. Cling to your faith, but stay out of my life, my home, my body and my mind.

a-1566685017 Jan 23, 2019 07:51 AM
Coming to America

Parvopup (what a horrific name; I'm sure you've saved one or many) ................................. That is a GREAT point! I agree with hundreds of thousands. Sheesh, anyone who thinks 2016 in Europe due to war was bad -- wait til there's no water for crops or even drinking. Hell on earth, indeed.

a-1566685017 Jan 23, 2019 07:40 AM
Coming to America

Trump signed an executive order on... oh TODAY, in 2017, to reinstate the Mexico City Policy. That policy means that any group/NGO that may even *mention* abortion cannot receive any monies for birth control... -------------------- "The policy requires foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to certify that they will not “perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning,” using funds from any source (including non-U.S. funds), as a condition for receiving U.S. government global family planning assistance and, as of Jan. 23, 2017, most other U.S. global health assistance. The Trump administration’s application of the policy extends to the vast majority of U.S. bilateral global health assistance, including funding for HIV under PEPFAR, maternal and child health, malaria, nutrition, and other programs. This marks a significant expansion of its scope, potentially encompassing $7.4 billion in FY 2018, to the extent that such funding is ultimately provided to foreign NGOs, directly or indirectly (family planning assistance accounts for approximately $600 million of that total). Kaiser Family Foundation analyses have found that: more than half of the countries in which the U.S. provides bilateral global health assistance allow for legal abortion in at least one case not permitted by the policy (analysis); and had the expanded policy been in effect during the FY 2013 – FY 2015 period, at least 1,275 foreign NGOs would have been subject to the policy"--------------------- https://www.kff.org/global-health-policy/fact-sheet/mexico-city-policy-explainer/

a-1566685017 Jan 23, 2019 07:30 AM
Coming to America

Why, Facto? Catholicism. The Mexico City Policy that mutes birth control assistance. SA countries' policy. And yes, the sheepishness of the populace, but without education and awareness campaigns, there's not much help for that. Hey, it finally worked in the USA for tobacco use and drunk driving. It's going to take decades and lots of money, as it did here in the USA.

horsegirl Jan 22, 2019 11:09 PM
Coming to America

eh I think its both. I dont think the earth can sustain such a growing population for long. we're using resources at a disgusting rate, as well as creating massive amounts of trash that are not biodegradable. we as a species are trashing the earth, killing wildlife, killing coral, overfishing the oceans, decimating forests, etc. birth control is a huge part of that, but one of the effects of the lack of humans ability to regulate our growth is massive damage to the planet.

Factotum Jan 22, 2019 07:20 PM
Coming to America

It is not climate change. It is very high birth rates in both Central America and the Middle East - 6-7 children and no way for the local economy to absorb them. This population bomb has been ticking for some time. Hence the desire to "migrate". Nothing at all to do with climate - that is just part of the defective narrative someone is using to divert one from the real issues. Why are the birth rates so high in these countries. How can the home countries absorb their own population.

RHS Jan 22, 2019 08:43 AM
Coming to America

So my previous observation pointing out that the US is substantially to blame for supporting dictatorship of these places and that the problem is essentially one of overpopulation was voted down. This stuff is basic information. SO maybe the downvote was because I noted that then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton refused to invoke sanctions when the military coup overthrew the modest centerest government of Zeyala despite specific US laws requiring her to do so. The exploitation of the nations in the Americas is a basic and continuing chore of US government on behalf of US corporate profit. So when the victims of this policy run away they are naive in thinking that the US will make good on the debt owed unless the victims can be further exploited here as cheap labor. Simple stuff.

a-1566685017 Jan 23, 2019 07:32 AM
Coming to America

I can't understand your arguments. Especially the one below. Please further explain, thanks. (is English a 2nd language?)

Emmenanthe Jan 22, 2019 07:40 AM
Coming to America

Anyone and everyone against birth control is at fault.

a-1566685017 Jan 23, 2019 07:01 AM
Coming to America

Which laws? The ones where we started ripping children from the arms of their families? Those “laws” deserve no respect.

sbdude Jan 21, 2019 12:59 PM
Coming to America

I believe every country, including the USA, has the right to determine who can live in that country and who can be citizens. I also believe that the overwhelming majority of those coming here are just poor people who want to work and improve their lot in life. I also believe many of the people in those caravans are being used by activists to push a certain political agenda. They have also been treated as political tools by all kinds of activists on both sides of the political spectrum here in America. I also believe that if things were better in their countries they wouldn't be so eager to leave their homelands and come to America. I also believe that we, as a country, are bound by the basic laws of decency that instruct us to treat those in the caravans with the dignity, honor, and respect that is due to any human being. Finally, I believe that we are a nation of immigrants, that immigration in general has been a net positive for America, and that the "border crisis" is a manufactured problem designed to inflame political partisanship and division in America.

a-1566685017 Jan 23, 2019 07:18 AM
Coming to America

stupid replies. this was to 1/21 1:40 pm

a-1566685017 Jan 23, 2019 07:17 AM
Coming to America

Not my Jewish grandparents.

a-1566685017 Jan 23, 2019 06:59 AM
Coming to America

The vast majority of our forebears were NOT born here....unless we are Native American.

NamasteYogi Jan 22, 2019 09:09 PM
Coming to America

You were good until you started in the basic laws of decency .... you need to get out and travel and leave your bubble and understand how he works works. I’d Be interested to know where you live, where you get gas, and if it seems like your in Mexico in both of those examples or is the any cultural diversity aside from 100% Latino?

Roger Jan 21, 2019 02:57 PM
Coming to America

Will some of our grand parents, and great grand parents, great, great, grandparents great,great,great Grandparents were not born here...We are not a nation of Haters either.

a-1566685017 Jan 21, 2019 01:40 PM
Coming to America

We are NOT a " nation of immigrants". The vast majority of us were born here.

SantaBarbaraObserver Jan 21, 2019 10:11 AM
Coming to America

Everyone with a heart feels for those who are suffering but... Poverty, gangs, drugs and criminal corruption are not grounds for political asylum. If that were the case, we'd need to offer asylum to 4.5billion people. Most of these people are coming to the USA for money and because they have been told, through rumors and otherwise, that there is a way into the USA if you claim you're in peril. I understand that they want an opportunity at a better life, but when they're offered that in Mexico, most are not taking the offer. IMHO if there is any entity that should pay for and care for these people's plight, it is the Catholic Church. Their continuation of antiquated dogma pushes millions upon millions of Latin Americans further into desperation and poverty. Yes people, its birth control. Plain and simple. There is no better way to improve he lives of the impoverished than to help them to NOT give birth to so many babies. These people are suffering from the antiquated ideals put forth by their church. Not from the hold overs of our misguided capitalism. Although it does impact, it pails in comparison to the suffering that is directly correlated to unchecked pregnancy and childbirth. Treat the cause, not the symptoms.

RHS Jan 21, 2019 10:05 AM
Coming to America

Much of this commentary is true. The US has consistently intervened to support dictators and suppress or destroy even vestigal democracy. (The most recent coup against Zelaya required the US to stop sending support to the government. Our Secretary of State refused to do this. Her name was Hilary Clinton.) But the people of these countries need to do their share. First is to stop population growth. Until this happens there will be continuing pressure to escape and an oversupply of cheap labor to be exploited.)

420722 Jan 21, 2019 09:53 AM
Coming to America

How will we pay for and house and feed and employ tens of millions of new people if we decide to take every single person in that wants in. I’m seriously curious. I know there’s the illusion that everything can be free but really it’s not free. Somebody has to pay.

Factotum Jan 21, 2019 09:17 AM
Coming to America

The Catholic Church encouraging very high birth rates outstripping Central America's ability to provide for their own people are all you need to understand about this illegal migration wave today. Stop blaming America.

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