A Long Look at Immigration

Pandemic Diary Entry #83

April 5, 2021

The 2000 mile border between the US and Mexico is getting a considerable amount of attention. Central Americans, coming from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador are overwhelming the US Mexican border hoping for asylum. Among them are also immigrants, and refugees. While the southern border is making the news we have immigration into the US from all over the world.

An immigrant is someone who chooses to resettle in another country. A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her home country. Asylum status is given to someone that would qualify for refugee status, but is already in the US.

Asylum claims are handled differently than refugee admissions. Asylum claims can be made only after the migrant sets foot on U.S. soil. Applicants do not need to have any form of legal status in the United States, and they are not required to solicit asylum at a port of entry (see U.S.C. §a 1158).

While many crossing the border are Mexican, overall immigration from Mexico has decreased. There are several reasons for this, more militarization of our borders after 9/11, Trump’s hateful rhetoric and the fact that both the Obama and Trump administrations detained and deported many Mexicans from the United States during their terms. Another is an increase in the economy of Mexico accompanied by a lower fertility rate which dropped from 7 to 2.1 babies per woman in the last 60 years.

So how can one immigrate to the US legally? There are four major categories of immigrant visas: family reunification, long-term workers, special immigrants and refugee admissions.

So why do so many people come across the border illegally? Well, the above-outlined ways are not as simple as they appear.

In the case of family migration or “chain migration” you must have a U.S. citizen spouse, parent, sibling, or child older than 21, or a legal permanent resident spouse or parent (as long as you aren’t married).

If you are fortunate enough to fall into this category you file with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to prove the relationship. If approved, you apply for a visa at your consulate.

Each year, a set number of visas are allowed globally for each type of relationship and once those are used, all others are put on a waiting list. Currently, that wait can be as much as 27 years.

Other than obtaining a family or work visa, it is almost impossible to get into the US legally.

Under United States law, a refugee is someone who is located outside of the United States, is of special humanitarian concern to the United States, demonstrates that they were persecuted or fear persecution due to race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group, is not firmly resettled in another country and is admissible to the United States. Then one must receive a referral to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for consideration as a refugee.

Once your status has been granted you may still have to wait 10, 15 or 20 years for your chance to try to come to the United States.

For asylum status you must be physically in the U.S.. Asylum is not easy to get. Up to 60% of asylum claims are denied. El Salvador and Honduras are among the five top countries in the world for violent deaths, and yet, courts typically deny more than 80% of asylum cases from those countries, mainly because the US has yet to recognize gang persecution and domestic violence as grounds for asylum. It is also an arbitrary decision. Asylum officers or immigration judges adjudicate the cases. Immigration judges in Atlanta reject, on average, 97% of asylum cases, while those in New York City approve, on average, 74%.

The journeys immigrants are taking to get to our borders are terrifying. Many are subject to extortion, rape, and death. Also, many are subjected to cartel-associated smuggling networks charging exorbitant fees.

No one takes such a journey lightly. They do it because staying at home is an even more horrible prospect.

The problems in Central America are many and have far-reaching consequences. Chronic poverty in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador has gotten worse during the pandemic and two devastating hurricanes last year left hundreds of thousands homeless.

In December, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) projected that Central America’s economies will have shrunk 6% in 2020.

In Honduras, almost 65% of the population lives below the poverty line. The entire political system is corrupt. Honduran President Juan O. Hernandez has been named in a New York Federal Court as a co-conspirator of El Chapo.

In Guatemala, the presence of violent gangs and drug trafficking organizations persists with impunity and the courts continue to release people that have been indicted.

Guatemala suffered a 2% decline in their economy in 2020 and first-term President Aleandro Giammattei is in the middle of political turmoil. People are afraid to speak out about the corruption within the government, and judges known for their courageous decisions receive death threats.

El Salvador has less of a drug trafficking problem but there is a serious problem of gangs ruling over many neighborhoods and towns. The gangs far outnumber the police. This gang violence has given El Salvador one of the highest murder rates in the world with nearly 83 homicides per 100,000 people. Hurricanes, war, and gang violence have forced one in six El Salvadorian to flee for the United States over the last several decades.

President of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, is trying to move the country towards authoritarianism. He has berated journalists and human rights defenders. He has ridiculed the Supreme Court and defied its decisions when they found he had overstepped his power.

It is important to also note here that we are already beginning to see migration due to climate change. This type of migration will continue to grow. The three countries: El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala comprise the northern triangle of Central America.

In this area, the average temperature has increased by 2.3 degrees F since 1950 and is projected to rise another 4–8 degrees before 2050. This has a deleterious effect on rainfall, soil quality, crops susceptibility to disease, and more.

Storms, floods, and droughts are on the rise in the region and according to the US Agency for International Development countries in this region will see decreased rainfall and prolonged droughts in the future.

In Honduras, rainfall will become rare in areas where it is needed, yet in other areas, floods will increase by 60%.

Many semiarid parts of Guatemala are already becoming deserts. Rainfall is expected to decrease by 60 percent in some parts of the country while the amount of water, needed to replenish streams and keep soil moist, is expected to drop by as much as 83 percent. El Salvador is expected to lose 10–28% of its coastline before the end of the century.

Biden’s administration has proposed $4 billion in U.S. aid to the region. He also stipulated that it would not go to government leaders but to communities and international organizations to address economic opportunity, climate change mitigation, and inequality.

When Biden was Vice President he led the multi-country task force trying to stem migration out of Central America, he is well aware that the problem will not be solved by money. Much of the aid provided under programs of that time were diverted to the pockets of corrupt officials, went to the pockets of U.S. contractors, or had little effect.

Solving some of these problems facing the people of Central America would help to slow this northward migration.

What about immigration as a whole? The US has the single largest number of immigrants in the world. More than 40 million people living in the US were born in another country. Approximately 77% of immigrants have entered this country legally.

India and the Philippines are now also at the top of the list of countries of origin for unauthorized immigrants to the US.

Almost one million immigrants arrive in the United States each year. The face of immigration is changing. Asians are projected to become the largest immigrant group in the United States by 2055, surpassing the current Latinx majority.

Immigrants come from all over the world, but what has made the news is our Southern Border. Next week I will be discussing, in depth, what is happening there.

This is part 2 of a 4 part series — Read Part 1 here.

Trivial Things

San Francisco weather: 59 degrees and sunny

NYSE DOW compared to one year ago: +11529

COVID cases in the US: 31,423,636

Deaths from COVID in the US: 568,830

Vaccines administered in the US: 165,053,746

OED word of the day: foolishment — Foolishness, silliness

Days since Shelter In Place was initiated: 392

Reading: The Road to Character by David Brooks

My Black and White Picture of the Day

Something Silly From the Internet:

My travel blog www.PassportandBaggage.com and my www.ArtandArchitecture-sf.com blog are quiet due to the Pandemic. I need to write, so here I go.