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Why People Immigrate to the United States

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Hondurans migrating north to the United States

The flood of children from Central America to U.S. borders that so freaked out conservatives last year has largely abated, but that doesn’t mean Central Americans have stop trying to get to the U.S. As part of our immigration policy, we need to understand why they are coming and what our own national complicity is in the reasons. This story on a detention center in Honduras for those deported back from Mexico on their way to the U.S. is a good entry point into why people migrate:

That’s definitely the plan for a 17-year-old arrival at El Edén named Keler. He was headed to Miami when authorities in southern Mexico booted him back. But almost his entire family lives in the U.S. — and he says if he returns to his town north of Tegucigalpa, Honduras’ capital, the violent gang that rules his neighborhood will either forcibly recruit him or kill him.

“They already shot dead two of my cousins,” Keler says, removing his New York Jets ski cap in the Honduran heat. “That’s what I’d be going back to.”

That’s still a dark dilemma for too many kids in Central America’s northern triangle — Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador — where vicious, tattooed streets gangs known as maras control whole swaths of territory, and homicide rates are among the highest in the world. Until recently, in fact, Honduras and San Pedro Sula were the world’s most murderous country and city.

Combine that with the region’s crushing poverty — about two-thirds of Hondurans are desperately poor — and it helps explain why the U.S. saw a massive migrant surge on its southern border last year. That included a record 68,000 unaccompanied children.

This is a refugee crisis that is not that much less horrible than what is happening in Syria and Iraq. Moreover, this violence is fueled by the United States in two important ways. First, it’s our insatiable desire for drugs, which is the economic basis for these gangs in the first place. Second, it’s that our ridiculous gun laws, or lack thereof, make it very easy for buyers to enter the U.S., purchase large amounts of guns, and drive them back into Mexico and Central America.

Given these two points, we should be allowing a nearly unlimited immigration flow from these nations. If we want to crack down on why these people have to migrate, OK, then I guess we could justify keeping the people out. But creating violence and then dooming people to die in that violence instead of entering the U.S., well, that’s pretty immoral.

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