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Why Central America's Volcanic Tragedies Are Stronger Than Trump's Immigration Logic

Luis Soto
AP via Miami Herald
A woman cries in Escuintla, Guatemala, after being evacuated from the area near the erupting Fuego volcano.


Here’s the logic behind the Trump Administration’s wrongheaded policy of separating undocumented migrant parents from their children when they’re detained: It’s only doing what law enforcement does any time it arrests suspects – who, after all, don’t get to take their kids to jail with them.

But the logic snaps when the Trumpistas also insist separating families this way is a big deterrent to illegal immigration. Just like it deters all crime, right?

Wrong. That’s never been a real factor in reducing crime. And it’s not likely to reduce illegal immigration either. If anything, the number of undocumented migrants seeking U.S. asylum is probably rising right now – as it did last yearin spite of President Trump’s anti-immigration crusade.

To understand why, you need only look at the volcanic tragedies gripping Central America. Again.

READ MORE: I've Learned to Think Like Trump. Mugging Honduras Makes Perfect Sense Now

Most asylum-seekers on the border are from that benighted region – especially its northern triangle of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, home to some of the world’s worst murder rates. Trump's billy club of family separation doesn’t weigh as much as the criminal, political and natural sledgehammers they’re fleeing. Such as:

●ŸA killer volcano in Guatemala – as well as drug-gang terror and an allegedly crooked president who’s out to disband the country’s anti-corruption institutions.

Ÿ●Deadly unrest in Nicaraguaagainst the thug regime of a ruler-for-life caudillo – who’s turned the country into his personal fiefdom.

For Central American migrants, Trump's billy club of family separation isn't as heavy as the criminal, political and natural sledgehammers they're fleeing.

●Brutal, unchecked violence against women in El Salvador – including the recent stifling of legislation to soften the world’s most medieval abortion laws.

Ÿ●Horrific gang violence in Honduras, where the president allegedly won re-election last year by fraud – and where the Supreme Court just dissolved one of the country’s own anti-corruption units, which was investigating ruling-party politicos.

In fact, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández is visiting Washington this week to all but remind the U.S. that it can get as tough as it wants on the border – but migrants from dysfunctional republics like his will just keep coming.

Hernández is lobbying the Trump Administration to reconsider its decision to end Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for almost 60,000 Hondurans living in the U.S. The Administration insists it’s safe for Hondurans to go back home now. But it isn’t. Its harrowing homicide rate has dropped in recent years, but much if not most of the country is still a harrowing place to live – as residents of the Los Bordos barrio in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, will tell you.


This year street gangs known as maras have terrorized Los Bordos – a community leader was murdered last month when his daughter refused to join them – forcing hundreds of residents to flee like refugees. Which likely means hundreds more undocumented asylum-seekers arriving on the U.S. border soon.

Meanwhile (and this part he won’t mention in Washington) Hernández’s allegedly illegitimate, right-wing government will continue to use the country’s pliable Supreme Court to undermine the rule of law. The same rule of law Honduras needs in order to undermine the maras.

Credit Alfredo Zuniga / AP
Protesters at a burning barricade in Masaya, Nicaragua, last month calling for the removal of President Daniel Ortega.

In Guatemala, gangland violence – and now this week’s devastating Fuego volcano eruption, which has killed 75 people and left hundreds more missing – will also keep sending refugees north. The situation may be more disastrous given the quality of leadership confronting it. Namely: President Jimmy Morales, a former TV comedian who’s trying to eradicate Guatemala’s respected anti-corruption office because it keeps probing his own alleged sleaze. (Morales denies involvement in corruption.)

Then there’s the increasingly violent standoff between Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and demonstrators who want him, his Vice President wife Rosario Murillo and their dictatorial left-wing regime out. Ortega’s security forces have killed more than 100 protesters in recent weeks, and much of Nicaragua is going up in flames.

And in El Salvador – where 152 women were brutally murdered in just the first four months of this year – mara terror is so pronounced the country until recently had the world’s highest murder rate. (It’s now moved to second-highest.)

Trump is also ending TPS for some 200,000 Salvadorans in the U.S. But many will make their way back, for this simple reason:

The maras are the same barbaric killers Trump recently called “animals.” And the urgency to escape them is stronger than any wrongheaded logic Trump is using to deter that escape.

Tim Padgett is the Americas Editor for WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida. Contact Tim at tpadgett@wlrnnews.org
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