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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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  • Nobdy

    How can a nation of only 320 million people possibly hope to absorb almost 70,000 refugees, children who often have family already living in the United States?

    • Malaclypse

      Look, we’re talking about almost the population of Scranton. Not Scranton back when there were still jobs there, but still, we’re talking about what is technically an actual city.

      • Nobdy

        Sorry wrong. I have driven through Scranton and the population there was definitely not entirely or even mostly Honduran, and they weren’t all children either.

        Plus if this were the population of Scranton why would it be trying to get INTO THE United States. Many people consider Scranton to already be inside the United States.

        • joe from Lowell

          Sick burn, Nobdy!

          Mal, those people don’t even speak Pennsylvanian.

          • Malaclypse

            At least in Pennsylvania, nobody uses words like “bubbler.” And you can pry my hoagie from my cold, greasy hands.

            • joe from Lowell

              A hoagie and a grinder aren’t even the same thing.

              Regional sandwich specialization is a core element of our national power.

            • mds

              At least in Pennsylvania, nobody uses words like “bubbler.”

              Not even to refer to a vigorously-fizzing opened bottle of tonic?

              “And you know what they call a frappe in Pittsburgh?”

              “They don’t call it a frappe?”

              “No, man, they got the English language. They wouldn’t know what the fuck a frappe is.”

              “What do they call it?”

              “They call it a milkshake.”

              “Milkshake.”

              “That’s right.”

              “What do they call a milkshake?”

              “They put coffee in it, and call it a ‘frappé.'”

              [Fake Yinzer accent] “‘Frap-PAY.'” [Laughs]
              “What do they call a lobstah roll?”

              “I don’t know, I didn’t go in a McDonald’s.”

              • Hogan

                In Philadelphia we call it a Partially Gelatinated Non-Dairy Gum-Based Beverage.

                • Lee Rudolph

                  In Philadelphia we call it a Partially Gelatinated Non-Dairy Gum-Based Beverage.

                  Worst. Lobster. Roll. EVAH.

                • Hogan

                  Still better than a Geno’s cheese steak.

              • Malaclypse

                Okay, I LOLed.

    • ThrottleJockey

      We can’t call ourselves the world’s indispensable leader if we’re content to let others lead when it comes to the refugee crisis.

      Where this gets tricky is in how you place people. You’ve got to do it in such as way as to not displace other low income workers. It takes some effort.

      • joe from Lowell

        It does take effort to do it well.

        There are a lot of depopulated industrial cities in this country.

        • Malaclypse

          To go to my earlier joke about Scranton, you could put all 70K there and the population would become almost exactly what it was in 1930.

          • ThrottleJockey

            Yeah, I agree. If Scranton still had jobs I’m sure it would be a lovely place, from the way Joe Biden regularly rhapsodizes about the place.

            • joe from Lowell

              Which brings us to, depopulated mid-sized industrial cities in metro areas that have sound employment bases.

              Gary, Indiana would do well with a few thousand Syrians.

              • Gregor Sansa

                I think I’d like to have a logical explanation for that.

                • joe from Lowell

                  It’s in a metro area where there are jobs, and it needs people to reoccupy all the vacant properties.

                • Gregor Sansa

                  Is it also just one place, that can light your face?

              • Old Kentucky Shark

                I’d rather have abandoned buildings than Saudi-funded Madrassas, joe.

                • tsam

                  Condescension and insanity in a single sentence. Well played. 7/10. Needs more Obummer Hussein

              • Colleen

                I completely agree! Think of all the abandoned and dilapidated homes in Detroit that are literally rotting away.
                Give 20,000 immigrant families a city owned abandoned property, some simple gardening tools, seeds, free utilities for a year (most of the residents there don’t pay their water bills anyway- Detroit Red Wings!) and Rosetta Stone English and be amazed at what they can accomplish in 5 years.

  • mds

    Why People Immigrate to the United States

    Duh, in order to collect Social Security benefits and pick up their card** giving them unlimited free health care.

    **Seriously, this is actually a sufficiently widespread belief in certain right-wing circles that my father has claimed to have directly witnessed the card being put to use by obvious “illegals.” Something usually has to be pretty well-entrenched before he reaches the point of being so flagrantly dishonest / delusional about it.

    • ThrottleJockey

      The problem with the rationale as Erik presents it is that it amounts to rhetorical sleight-of-hand:

      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.

      First off he blames our demand for drugs. That’s an old argument that’s true as far as it goes. But next he blames their demand for guns on us as well. If we get the blame for our demand of drugs, why shouldn’t they get the blame for their demand of guns? This is tantamount to blaming America both first and last.

      This is an unnecessary yet enormous amount of rhetorical exertion and logical pretzel twisting to just say, “Hey, America, we have a humanitarian crisis unfolding and we need to step up and be the leader we say we are.”

      This isn’t the type of issue where it makes sense to cast blame. Blaming the US because we have people addicted to drugs makes no more sense than blaming Mexico because they have sociopathic criminals willing to serve that demand.

      • yet_another_lawyer

        The *real* problem is Central America’s insatiable appetite for guns, and their very lax law (as applied) as it comes to drugs. As such, the USA is clearly blameless.

      • liberalrob

        why shouldn’t they get the blame for their demand of guns?

        Because their demand for guns is directly related to (and a consequence of) our demand for drugs. The drug cartels wouldn’t even exist without that. If your argument is they would have bought the guns anyway, without drug revenue, how would the criminal gangs be able to afford all those guns? We may talk a lot about how relatively cheap guns are, but they aren’t free either…especially black-market ones.

        • Colleen

          Many South and Central American countries have surprisingly strict gun laws. So if you are already driving a truck of drugs up to the US, why not come back with a truck full of guns bought cheap at a gun show or through 20 or so straw buyers?

          • cpinva

            “why not come back with a truck full of guns bought cheap at a gun show or through 20 or so straw buyers?”

            and sell them back home for 5 times what you paid for them, making a tidy profit on both ends of the round trip. now that’s “The Art Of The Deal” boys & girls. these people may be scumbags, they aren’t stupid.

          • creature

            That’s the lesson that Iran-Contra taught the world’s up-and-coming crooks! American Exceptionalism, at its finest!

  • Murc

    For me, it’s a much simpler calculation; I can see no reason to deny other people the benefits of migration without which I would literally not exist that doesn’t also make me morally monstrous.

    • liberalrob

      That’s because you haven’t fully embraced the Real American value of “I’ve got mine, Jack.”

      Many many people in this country are horrible people.

    • cpinva

      “I can see no reason to deny other people the benefits of migration without which I would literally not exist that doesn’t also make me morally monstrous.”

      I’m going to guess your ancestors were a heartlandishly hued bunch. they just blended right in, after a couple of generations of Americanizing that accent. possibly a name change to go with it.

      • Murc

        Nope! Irish on one side, Italian on the other.

        Okay, well. The Irish side are orange Irish who go back to the 1700s, but still.

        • rea

          Neither of those ethnic groups were considered, ‘white,’ when they arrived.

  • Ransom Stoddard

    Strongly agreed, but I think it’s less demand for drugs from the U.S. that causes the exodus than the prohibition approach to drug policy. Because the firms that manufacture and distribute drugs are operating in a stateless vacuum, they have strong incentives to resort to violence. If the same demand for drugs was satisfied by regulated businesses in a controlled legalization framework, the violence associated with the drug trade would disappear overnight. The way I see it, the persistence of disastrous prohibition policies today is a result of the victims of these policies being outside the U.S. (and within the U.S., the groups hurt most by them have significantly sub-proportional political power).

    On the issue of immigration more broadly, I recognize that there’s an Overton window limit to the debate created by the rabid racism/xenophobia of Republicans, but I think (fellow) liberals/progressives should start to strongly question the desirability of immigration restrictions in general. (The current debate seems to focus on reducing the ludicrous active government discrimination against undocumented immigrants, which is good, but reducing the untenable barriers to legal immigration should be a part of the conversation too). It’s obvious to anyone with half a brain and a heart that using state coercion to trap people in violence and poverty is disgusting policy, but the framing of allowing immigration as being charitable by nativists is something we should resist. The economic literature suggests overwhelmingly that immigration is a net positive. Beyond some basic concerns that would require a fraction of the resources we now spend on “border security”, it’s a puzzle to me why stopping a person born in one country from moving to work in a different nation is at all an efficient or just use of public resources. We should be encouraging immigration, if anything.

    If anyone is interested, BTW, here’s an ungated JEP paper on the economic benefits of immigration: http://pubs.aeaweb.org/doi/pdfplus/10.1257/jep.25.3.83

    • ThrottleJockey

      There are limits to how many migrants you can accept while still maintaining a tight enough labor force that wages stay decent. For instance, I’ve gone from a lukewarm supporter of H1B visas to thinking that the entire H1B program should be castrated, killed, and cremated (just to be sure its dead).

      • Ransom Stoddard

        Ah, because preventing migrants from moving to areas where their wages would multiply by anywhere from 2 to 10 is of course a wonderful way to keep wages high. I’m curious as to how extensively you’d apply this logic: should women have been excluded from the labor force to “keep” men’s wages “decent”? Should we seal off the borders of every U.S. state to “keep” wages in those states “decent”? Should every neighborhood institute a border patrol to keep workers from other neighborhoods from “lowering wages”? Those are all self-evidently absurd propositions, but immigration restrictions are the same argument scaled to the macro level.

        More seriously, what you’re describing is called a pecuniary externality. The gains to migrants and capital owners will be greater than the losses to low wage workers from immigration; therefore immigration is a positive. I’d definitely support large transfers from those in the top percentiles of income and wealth (who’d benefit from a decreased scarcity of unskilled labor) to the workers in the U.S. who’d relatively lose out from immigration, but even without such transfers immigration would be a net positive in terms of reducing human suffering.

        I’ll cut out all the econ stuff and just make a Rawlsian case, if that makes it clearer: no one deserves to have a substantially worse life due to having been born to the wrong parents. From a starting position where we had an equal chance of being born into any country in the world, we would agree that immigration would be a positive. Supporting immigration restrictions to subsidize the wages of workers fortunate enough to be born in the right country is immoral even in the worst reasonable case for native born workers, and taxes and transfers in the current system, let alone a Nordic model, should destroy any shadow of an argument for immigration restrictions.

        Regarding H1B visas, see this paper:
        http://www.renewoureconomy.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/pnae_h1b.pdf
        Or, if you’re pressed for time:
        http://www.vox.com/2014/6/4/5779472/study-high-skilled-immigrants-jobs-Americans-h1b-visa-lottery

        • Gregor Sansa

          Research is mixed, but there’s definitely an evidence-based argument to be made that immigration is actually good for the wages of the average blue-collar worker; it increases the premium on native English skills.

          No, really. Yes, I do understand that there are specific jobs where immigration clearly depresses wages; I wouldn’t want to be a native-born landscaper. But as shown by experiences like the Mariela boatlift, in which Miami increased population by double digit percentages in a matter of months and unemployment actually went down, the “lump of labor” fallacy about immigration is totally wrong. If you gave me magic green lantern bully pulpit powers and said “increase world GDP by 10 trillion in the next year or we’ll shave your dog”, I’d be confident that you wouldn’t end up touching a hair of him; fostering economic growth by allowing more migration is easy peasy.

          • xq

            David Card has multiple papers on this that come to somewhat different conclusions. Here (published a decade after his paper saying no effect) he claims that the boatlift probably did increase unemployment among low-wage workers:

            http://davidcard.berkeley.edu/papers/immig-inflows.pdf

            • liberalrob

              But also only an estimated 3% (or less) drop in the wages of low-skill workers. That’s not a huge drop.

              • xq

                3 percentage point reduction in employment is substantial, though not huge. But yes; I think low-skill immigration probably has small negative effects on low-skill natives, small positive effects on high-skill natives, and massive positive effects on the immigrants themselves.

                • liberalrob

                  Natives will not care about the effects on the immigrants, however. All they see is the negative effects on themselves.

                • ThrottleJockey

                  If you’re barely making ends meet as a landscaper, say, and your income goes down 3%, you’re not making ends meet anymore.

          • ThrottleJockey

            Yes, there have been numerous studies demonstrating how immigration is a net economic positive, that’s an “on average” statement. As we’ve learned these past 30 years just because average GDP per capita increases doesn’t mean the typical worker is better off. The policy trick is to make sure that those who would face economic competition from the influx of migrants are at least no worse off.

            • liberalrob

              Actually the trick is to make sure the top 1% don’t make off with the lion’s share of those GDP per capita increases. Then you would have more resources to cushion the influx of migrants.

              • ThrottleJockey

                Yeah, that too.

      • liberalrob

        I think equating H1B’s with immigration from Latin America is kind of a stretch. The only real point of commonality is they are all foreign nationals. Honduran immigrants aren’t looking to flood the tech sector…and while it’s true that low-skill immigration will put a downward pressure on wages for low-skill jobs, I’m not sure that the percentage drop is going to equate to much of a wage loss per capita. It’s not like we’re paying princely wages to landscapers and roofers to begin with.

        • ThrottleJockey

          No, I’m not equating H1B with typical Latin American I’m just pointing out how both can affect US workers.

      • JL

        H1B and other temporary work visa programs are very different from permanent immigration.

    • cpinva

      forget the “half a heart” thing, as republicans, and the rabid right wing in general aren’t affected by such things. let’s just focus on the economic dynamics. having all those people here legally will make it easier/safer for agribusiness to get their crops picked timely, by a group of folks happy to do so. they won’t have to rely on the (sometimes) iffy nature of transient workers, who may or may not be where they’re needed next year. sure, it’s going to cost a bit more, but stability has its economic advantages.

  • guthrie

    I would have thought the simplest response would be to ensure the USA is as bad as the countries people are trying to leave, thus ensuring they see no reason to go there.

    • Mike Lommler

      The Republican party is working on this as hard as they can, I assure you.

  • DrDick

    The fact that we, though our governmental policies, have systematically impoverished and politically destabilized these countries for over a century and then turned around and dumped our gang culture problem on them, should of course have no place in any such discussion.

    • ThrottleJockey

      Ahem, deporting violent illegal immigrants back to their country of origin is not “dumping our gang culture problem” on them.

      In any event I have it on good authority that gangs are not real moneymaking enterprises but simply an organization by which poor youths do ‘stupid shit’ in order to impress one another. So no problems with there.

      • DrDick

        Deporting young people who have grown up in this country with the violent gang culture that exists here (note that I am not Joe) and have no ties to their native countries is indeed dumping our gang culture on them.

        • ThrottleJockey

          Not every illegal immigrant mirated here as infants. Some came as children, others came as teens, and some came already affiliated with gangs. And some countries tacitly support this migration because the remittances are vital to their economy.

          • DrDick

            Your cluelessness on this topic is duly noted. While there were gangs in the region before, what they have now is completely different and is very clearly a US export. Most of the problems there now are caused by MS-13 and the 18th St. Gang, both formed in east LA and a product of US gang culture culture. A large portion of those deported did indeed arrive as children.

            • ThrottleJockey

              I’m well aware of MS-13’s roots and how they came to be in Honduras but there is no way to say categorically that children who immigrated here as children were mostly, much less overwhelmingly, “young children”. Immigrants are spread across different age groups. And I don’t think its too much to ask as a condition for amnesty (which I support) that someone not commit violent felonies. MS-13 has been pretty heinous. Besides murder and drugs they’ve also raped 14 year old girls and forced them into prostitution.

              • DrDick

                I have no idea at all what this has to do with either my comment or your original one. Keep flailing about though.

          • Malaclypse

            Some came as children, others came as teens, and some came already affiliated with gangs.

            I’m seeing another excluded middle.

            And some countries tacitly support this migration because the remittances are vital to their economy.

            I’m completely not seeing why I should think this is a bad thing.

            • DrDick

              Logic and evidence are not TJ’s strong suits.

            • ThrottleJockey

              I’m not going to complain, per se. The immigration out and remittances make in whole a good feedback loop serving to reduce pressure on the country while providing a boost to the economy. What I’m objecting to is the ‘blame America’ thread of the argument.

      • joe from Lowell

        Oh, is that what you took from that? That gangs aren’t money-making enterprises.

        Just brilliant.

        • ThrottleJockey

          I took away from it that you think gangs are primarily social organizations as opposed to economic organizations. I think the Black Gangster Disciples (to use a Chicao gang) are basically a black version of the Mafia. But you disagree on that point.

          • joe from Lowell

            What a bizarre misreading.

            You’re already provided the link. I’ve been back over it.

            And the notion of those two categories being exclusive even when you bring up the Italian mafia.

            I just can’t even begin to understand.

            • Hogan

              TJ has never seen a middle he didn’t want to exclude.

            • ThrottleJockey

              Well you appeared to refute my argument that street gangs are like the mafia by saying they were mostly a social organization where dumb ass kids impressed one another by doing dumb ass stuff. I’m not the only one who read it that way. Ronan posted a link about how gangs are primarily social organizations, not economic enterprises.

              I’d agree that gangs were once social organization but that all changed in the ’80s with the explosion of crack cocaine, the currency that provided, and the guns that currency afforded the gangs.

        • Lurker

          Gangs are not moneymaking enterprises if the state is sufficiently strong. For example, the dissertation of Jussi Perälä showed, for Finland, quite convincingly that drug crimes don’t pay. Even high-level bosses’ net worths are less than 100,000 €, and most drug criminals live in poverty. The confiscation of the criminal proceeds is so efficient and profits so low that drug crime is not a rational pursuit for anyone.

          In a country with less effective law enforcement, the situation may change. I believ that American street gangs are still below the level where they would be profitable, but there is no question whether Central American drug cartels make profit. They do, and I would vemture to guess that they may be the largest export industries in some regions. As such, they become an intimate, yet illegal part of local life, and may actually get support from the general population.

          • Gregor Sansa

            If the war-criminal president of Guatemala hadn’t been so outstandingly corrupt as to provoke a general strike and his own ouster, the next president (elected next Sunday) would have been a drug lord. As it is, it will probably be Jimmy Morales, who’s kind of like a cross between Ben Carson and Jimmy Kimmel.

            Shut up, that metaphor totally made sense.

          • ThrottleJockey

            Fifty Cent talks about this. Said by the time he factored in jail time drug dealing paid less than Mickey D’s. But its a statistical game and there are 1%ers who never get caught, or are caught after a long period of time, and who manage to make bank. There’s a guy from the old neighborhood who told me he was pulling down about $30K a year dealing on the side. Not a lot of money, but it was tax free, so that’s more like a $40K job on the side. Not rich money by any stretch but nice middle class money.

            He told me he decided to quit when he got pulled over by a cop one night while he had a bag of drugs and a scale in his back seat. The cop never searched his car but it was the close brush scared him straight.

    • Phil Perspective

      The first half of your statement is certainly correct. Hell, Hillary supported the overthrow of the Honduran government a few years ago.

      • rea

        Hillary supported the overthrow of the Honduran government a few years ago.

        Not exactly true.

    • Old Kentucky Shark

      “Our” violent gang culture? Please cite even one gang made up of Gringos that comes close to MS-13 in sheer mindless violence.

      • Woodrowfan

        noted how you define “our” as not Hispanic. FWIW, MS-13 and its rivals were created in the US and we’ve exported them to Central America.

        • Old Kentucky Shark

          Created in the US by whom? By Latino immigrants.

          • Gregor Sansa

            By the CIA.

            (Mostly kidding. But not entirely. There is a valid, if tenuous, link to be drawn between Iran-Contra, crack, and the MS-13.)

          • tsam

            MS13 and the Latin Kings are the only gangs here? No crips/bloods/Hells Angels/Cosa Nostra/KKK? Just mad about the latinos?

      • Lost Left Coaster

        The George W. Bush Administration comes to mind.

        And no, I am not joking whatsoever.

        • liberalrob

          Their violence was completely premeditated and planned. Witless, gutless, but not mindless.

      • liberalrob

        Aryan Brotherhood
        Bandidos
        Bloods
        Crips
        […]

      • DrDick

        The Dixie Mafia and the KKK? Fucker, I grew up in the South and rednecks are as or more violent than any other group in the US.

      • Malaclypse

        Please cite even one gang made up of Gringos that comes close to MS-13 in sheer mindless violence.

        The Philadelphia police department.

        • witlesschum

          If MS 13 has burned down a whole city block I haven’t heard of it.

          • Malaclypse
            • Malaclypse

              And now reading, you were making the same reference. I should not post before coffee.

  • shah8

    also a big time Roads and Kingdom post about this…

    One thing that I think should be noted–the US drug policy and central american policy has gotten pretty bankrupt in the sense we could tolerate this dynamic. El Salvador is getting worse, while more safe places like Costa Rica and Nicaragua are suffering escalating crime issues. I also think that Mexico is on a downswing in terms of it’s perpetually up and down governance since independence.

  • Lost Left Coaster

    Yes, and I would emphasize in this discussion too that migrants/refugees from Central America are likely to have family/friends in the USA already, and in any case, they will be able to integrate into life in the USA relatively smoothly, as long as the USA doesn’t try to make their lives a living hell by denying them access to education, social benefits, job training, English classes, etc.

  • yet_another_lawyer

    Independent of the merits of the essentially open immigration you describe, it seems like a real stretch to blame local conditions on the US. “Americans like drugs” is true, but they can be grown/produced anywhere. The gun things is also overstated– it’s less than half and only a portion are from the retail sales you describe, and most of it seems to originate from official grants of guns to local governments and police (although I’m sympathetic to the argument we should stop doing so, given that the local officials are so corrupt). Canada is much closer, it’s also possible to grow drugs there, yet they don’t have the same problems. Why?

    • ThrottleJockey

      This doesn’t answer the Canada question, but it does elaborate on how Central Americans really get their guns, as opposed to the straw buyer scenario above.

    • liberalrob

      Canada is much closer, it’s also possible to grow drugs there, yet they don’t have the same problems. Why?

      Off the top of my head, I would guess it’s a combination of 1) while it’s possible to grow drugs there, it’s not possible to do so on the scale required (how many places can you actually grow MJ or opium poppies in Canada); 2) the infrastructure for growing, processing, shipping, and distributing drugs already existed down south; 3) Canada was never ruled by Communist dictatorships we wished to overthrow.

      • Old Kentucky Shark

        It’s getting a bit late in history to blame everything wrong today in Latin America on the Cold War. Latin America was a dysfunctional mess before 1945, it was a dysfunctional mess before the United States was even a medium-sized power.

        • Woodrowfan

          we’ve been messing with them for well over 150 years.

          • Old Kentucky Shark

            …which is a drop in the bucket given there have been cities in Latin America since the 1500s.

            This infantilization of Latin Ameircans, where they have zero agency of their own except as victims of the evil Yanquis (or maybe the British), needs to go away. They’ve been quite capable of screwing up their own societies.

            • liberalrob

              Technically there have been cities in the area we call “Latin America” much longer than that.

        • liberalrob

          I don’t recall the Salvadoran drug gangs being much of a problem in the 1830’s.

          • Old Kentucky Shark

            They still had plenty of ?civil war, political instability, enormous wealth inequality and dictators.

            • liberalrob

              Some of which we ourselves fomented (e.g. Panama). That distant history is fairly irrelevant to the current situation, however, which cannot be isolated from the context of the Cold War and our meddling in the name of anti-Communism.

              • Old Kentucky Shark

                Please show me the era in which Central America was a model of liberal democracy and political stability.

                • liberalrob

                  Irrelevant. It is unstable now despite our involvement, indeed in some cases because of it; and our involvement to date has not been focused on installing liberal democracy.

                • Gregor Sansa

                  Guatemala, 1944-54.

                • Lost Left Coaster

                  It’s hard to tell what side of the issue you’re arguing. You acknowledge US meddling but apparently it is ultimately inconsequential to the political landscape in Central America because there seems to have been some other sources of instability in history? Do I have that correctly?

                  I guess we’re getting to the “quit yer whining” part of the post-Cold War era, since a couple of decades have passed now since the USA supported genocide in Guatemala, so why don’t they just get over it already.

                • liberalrob

                  Remember that this all started as a question of why violent Canadian drug gangs haven’t overrun our major cities…

                  His argument is that the reason there are violent Latin American drug gangs is entirely because of their long history of violence, political instability and wealth inequality, which cannot be laid at the door of the United States because that violent history goes back to Cortez and Pizarro (and probably beyond), and which Canadia has not suffered. It is simply in the Latin American temperament to be murderously violent.

                • Old Kentucky Shark

                  Why no Canadian drug gangs?

                  Iberian political culture is just plain inferior to Anglo political culture. Any objective observer can see this. Former English colonies do better than former Spanish colonies. It’s a no-brainer.

                • Old Kentucky Shark

                  Latinos are not as civic-minded as other groups in America.

                  I can prove it–look to California. The state’s largest population is now Hispanic, slated to be a majority in a few decades. Yet who controls the political power? Whites, Jews, and Asians from the Bay area, not Latinos from Southern California.

                • Lost Left Coaster

                  There are Canadian drug gangs, by the way. Jesus, just look at the violence in Surrey, BC, right now.

                • djw

                  Why no Canadian drug gangs?

                  This is a seriously weak trolling effort.

                • rea

                  Why no Canadian drug gangs?

                  There are, of course, Canadian drug gangs, one member of which became mayor of Toronto a while back.

        • Gregor Sansa

          Yes, Guatemala was a dysfunctional mess before 1944, to be precise. But then they had 10 years of democracy! A president modeling himself after FDR, and huge progress in infrastructure, education, civil rights!

          And then a US coup. And then a civil war. With US helicopters and US-trained torturers. My parents-in-law have literally dozens of friends who were assassinated in that conflict. I know people who were tortured, though of course only the very lucky ones lived to tell about it.

          That’s the same generation as Obama, or Sotomayor, or for that matter Trump, and it was quite literally decimated. “A bit late in history”, my ass.

          • Old Kentucky Shark

            So without US involvement, Guatemala would be Denmark, just like it was for 100s of years before. Got it.

            Do you believe Latin Americans have any agency at all? Or are they just forever passive victims of the evil gringos?

            • liberalrob

              Victims, certainly. Not so sure about the passive part. More like helpless. Outgunned. What would you have them do? It’s easy for you to sit at your keyboard in Prince William County and say they should fight the power; not quite so easy for them going up against armed thugs backed by corrupt government officials and an Uncle Sugar more concerned with corporate profits and anticommunism than their well-being. What would you do, in their place? Just sit there and die?

              • Old Kentucky Shark

                I think Mexico should take them in. Gregor Sansa assures me it’s good enough (see below) and a heck of a lot closer than the USA. Plus, they speak the same language.

                Doesn’t that make more sense than Falls Church?

                • Gregor Sansa

                  Hablan el mismo idioma aquí también. Por lo menos, uno de los principales. Los estados unidos es un país multicultural, cabrón, y nosotros, burlándonos de ti en una lengua que, como muchas cosas más, desconoces, tenemos el mismo derecho que cualquiera. Acostúmbrate, güey.

                • Old Kentucky Shark

                  90% + of the USA speaks English, while virtually everyone in Mexico speaks Spanish.

                  Mexico is much closer culturally to Guatemala than northern Virginia. And it’s physically closer. How come the refugees don’t stop in Mexico, Gregor?

                • liberalrob

                  What if Mexico says no? Just because you think they should take them in doesn’t mean they will, you’re not the boss of Mexico. Don’t they have a right to control their borders and protect the interests of their citizens as they see fit too? More importantly, do we need to wait for Mexico to decide whether to take in immigrants before deciding what we will do? That’s some leadership!

                • Old Kentucky Shark

                  Since Mexico is closer and much more culturally similar yes, yes I should think we should wait to see what Mexico does.

                  If MEXICO doesn’t want to take them, even while speaking the same language and having a similar culture, there’s probably a reason for that. A reason that is even more salient if they go to a country that is more geographically and culturally distant.

                • Gregor Sansa

                  Guatemala tiene 23 idiomas oficiales, de los cuales solo 7 existen en México. México, por su lado, tiene más de 50. Y tu, pobrecito: mayuk ajol, mayuk atz’ik’in.

                • Old Kentucky Shark

                  If the refugees don’t even speak Spanish, but some unwritten Indian language, that’s even more of a reason not to take them. ESL is hard enough with Spanish, imagine schools full of people speaking Mayuk.

                • Gregor Sansa

                  “Mayuk” no es el nombre del idioma, es parte de un comentario sobre las carencias cerebrales que sufres. Y lo escribí, tonto; no es un idioma sin escribir.

                • Gregor Sansa

                  Actually, it’s interesting; “mayuk” means approximately the same thing as 没有, and also sounds kinda similar.

                  But as for “unwritten”, Mayans/Mesoamericans are one of the two cultures in the world to independently fucking invent writing. So yeah, someone here is bankrupt….

                  (Quipu is awesome but it’s not writing, so two is the correct number.)

                • wjts

                  Three cultures, surely? Mesopotamia, Mesoamerica and… Mesochina.

            • Gregor Sansa

              Dude. The US sponsors a coup and funds a civil war that killed a quarter of a million people, over 80% civilians; and you sarcastically suggest that it wouldn’t have been heaven otherwise?

              Guatemala had a functioning democracy. Then they had genocide, entire towns herded into their churches and burned alive. And you shrug your shoulders and suggest the difference isn’t very big for THOSE people.

              I suggest you go to the Mexico-Guatemala border some day, and spend a little time on either side. Yes, Mexico is not the USA, but it is a hell of a lot closer to being first-world than Guatemala is, and not having had a major armed conflict killing the people who would probably be president now probably has a little something to do with that. Building codes, public school textbooks and overall literacy, noise ordinances, a mostly-functioning police and legal system… you can see these differences in an afternoon’s stroll. And yes, those differences are absolutely on the US conscience.

              • Gregor Sansa

                (I know, Mexico has fewer stores blasting their sound systems into the street not because of “ordinances”, but because in a clientilist system, doing so would be asking to be hit up for bribes… but in the end, yes, that system is still more functional than what Guatemala has.)

          • Old Kentucky Shark

            After all, I can name 10 countries off the top of my head that recovered quite nicely from much more devastating wars.

            • Lost Left Coaster

              Well…yeah, sure. Each country is, you know, different. History is contingent…I mean, Japan recovered pretty damn well from being hit with a pair of A-bombs, but I wouldn’t make that an argument that it’s not so bad to hit countries with A-bombs.

          • Old Kentucky Shark

            Also, even if the United States is, in fact, the source of all Guatemala’s problems forever and ever amen, that at best entitles them to reparations. Not sending their entire underclass to northern Virginia.

            • tsam

              sending their entire underclass to northern Virginia.

              WHO LEAKED THE MASTER PLAN?

        • Lost Left Coaster

          “Latin America” is not a dysfunctional mess. We’re talking about several specific countries here, all in Central America. Latin America is not a homogeneous region, something that people arguing on all sides of this issue would do well to remember.

  • carla

    The U. S. has a lot to answer for as a cause of the woes in Central America.

    “Under President Obama, the U.S. government has renewed and expanded Mérida and, in 2011, created the Central American Regional Security Initiative (CARSI). From 2008 to 2013, these programs have received over $2 billion and $574 million respectively, according to a 2014 report by the Igarapé Institute. Though administration spokespeople emphasize investments made in judicial reform and drug prevention programs, most funds have been spent on supporting increasingly warlike drug interdiction and law enforcement.”
    The U.S. Re-militarization of Central America and Mexico

  • Steve LaBonne

    Because of my church’s work with a local immigrant aid / advocacy group, I’ve heard at first hand the stories of some of these people. They’re horrific. Any sane person would want to escape, and if we were the kind of country we pretend to be, we would welcome them.

    • Malaclypse

      My normal response to this sort of thing is that I’m proud of the words at the Statue of Liberty. Who wouldn’t be?

      • Steve LaBonne

        I wish it wasn’t so easy to answer that question…

        • mds

          Yeah, it turns out the Statue of Liberty is a pagan idol foisted on us by the Christianity-hating French. Haven’t you guys read about the Whore of Babylon in Revelation?

      • Gareth

        Emma Lazarus does have a way with words. I like An Epistle to the Hebrews too:

        “Let our first care today be the re-establishment of our physical strength, the reconstruction of our national organism, so that in future, where the respect due to us cannot be won by entreaty, it may be commanded, and where it cannot be commanded, it may be enforced.”

    • Old Kentucky Shark

      Problem is, the people doing the horrific things to them are going to follow. We now have MS-13 in the Shenandoah Valley, for God’s sake. Thanks, unlimited mass immigration.

      And if you care about economic inequality, why do you seek to turn this country into one giant Los Angeles County?

      • tsam

        1–deportations are at record levels the last two years.

        B–>Trolling this hard. SMH

      • Lost Left Coaster

        “Unlimited mass immigration” — okay, besides the fact that I think I may have just got a glimpse of the player’s cards, I’m just wondering when the USA has had unlimited mass immigration of people from Central America?

        • Old Kentucky Shark

          De facto we’ve had it since the 1980s. Loomis wants to make it de jure, because something something Mexican War something something coups. Therefore, the US has no right to its borders.

          • Lost Left Coaster

            Ha ha ha…okay. Unlimited mass immigration since the 1980s.

            So I guess you’re only opposing Loomis’s plan on principle, because in practice, everyone who wants to come to the USA gets to come anyway. So his idea doesn’t make an iota of difference, even if it were to be implemented.

        • liberalrob

          “Amnesty!”

      • DrDick

        Slow day at Stormfront is it? Crawl back under the outhouse cracker, we ain’t buying any of your recycled horseshit.

        • Old Kentucky Shark

          My immigration policy is not racist. Look below for what I actually believe.

          There’s a middle ground between “Nazi” and “totally open borders, the US has no right to exist”.

  • Quehashecho

    Totally torn over this. No, it is not a good thing to open our borders. No, really it’s not. If you like open borders, then you’ll love the dispute resolution provisions of the TPP. Same thing. Sovereignty means we retain control over the conditions in which we live. Giving it up means the opposite.

    What we do need to do is 1) help Central America get healthier, which includes actively supporting the left and stop arming the right. 2) and, of course, massive economic development aid to Central America. 3) Stop the drug war. 4) stop gun sales.

    You say all those things are impossible, but opening our borders is not? Ummmmmm……

    • Steve LaBonne

      I smell burning straw.

    • Old Kentucky Shark

      That’s because for the likes of Erik Loomis, open borders is an intellectual parlor game. People like him aren’t going to be the ones living with the many negative consequences of unlimited mass immigration.

      • Gregor Sansa

        OKS: our man in the bloody trenches of Northern Virginia. While the likes of Loomis sip their sherry and play croquet in their exquisitely-landscaped plantations.

        • Malaclypse

          We all know elitists like Loomis sip artisanal vodka martinis.

    • What do open borders have to do with sovereignty outside the sloganeering of white supremacists? Allowing immigration does not make one nation subject to the rule of another.

    • djw

      Sovereignty means we retain control over the conditions in which we live.

      If a country exercises its sovereign power and authority to make a policy decision Quehashecho considers unwise, that’s evidence it doesn’t have sovereignty.

  • L2P

    Individual gun sales are a minute part of the gun problem in Central America. Most guns are either government purchases or legacies of the cold war.

    Now drug sales in the US, though…

  • Old Kentucky Shark

    Given these two points, we should be allowing a nearly unlimited immigration flow from these nations.

    Didn’t you argue the same for Mexico, because of the Mexican-American War?

    Is there any country south of the Rio Grande which the USA has the right to control migration from, in your opinion?

    Sometimes these sentiments combined with your other views of American history lead me to conclude that you view the USA as an illegitimate polity with no right to exist.

    • liberalrob

      Having a right does not mean it is prudent to exercise that right.

      • Old Kentucky Shark

        Do you even live in an area where you have to deal with the negative effects of mass immigration from the developing world?

        It’s very prudent to exercise that right to protect the people that are already citizens here–that’s the entire point of having a government. To protect the interests and rights of its citizens first and foremost, not foreigners. And if it does help foreigners, it should not be at the expense of its own citizens.

        • Ransom Stoddard

          Do you even live in a Central American nation in a state of anarchic violence where you have to deal with the negative effects (i.e. death and extreme poverty) of immigration restrictions from the developed world?

          • Old Kentucky Shark

            Letting everyone come in from Honduras isn’t going to make Honduras a better place, it will just make a lot of neighborhoods here into carbon copies of Honduras. You didn’t have gruesome gang murders in places like Woodstock, Virginia until Central American immigration came to town.

            • Ransom Stoddard

              So you’re saying that we can’t allow refugees of violent oppression to flee to the United States, because they want nothing more than to be violent oppressors themselves. Just curious, would that argument apply to the Armenians in WW1 and the Jews in WW2?

              Also, the data overwhelmingly suggests that immigrants commit violent crime at a lower rate than native born citizens.

              A massive, perhaps even the primary, source of crime in Central America is U.S. drug policy. I know this is pretty groundbreaking stuff, but prohibition does in fact create massive violent crime.

              Old Kentucky Shark, 1924: “Letting everyone come in from Sicily won’t make Sicily a better place, it will just make a lot of neighborhoods here into carbon copies of Sicily. You didn’t have gruesome gang murders in places like Chicago, Illinois until Italian immigration [sic] came to town.”

              • Old Kentucky Shark

                Also, the data overwhelmingly suggests that immigrants commit violent crime at a lower rate than native born citizens.

                That’s because you’re including Silicon Valley H1B types in “all immigrants”. Break it out for the lowest -level unskilled immigrants and its a different story.

                What’s more, the evidence is very strong that Latino immigrants children do worse than they do–more crime, more out of wedlock births, more use of welfare, and educational indicators don’t improve. That is NOT good, and we don’t need more of it.

                • We get it, you hate Latinos.

                • tsam

                  What’s more, the evidence is very strong that Latino immigrants children do worse than they do–more crime, more out of wedlock births, more use of welfare, and educational indicators don’t improve. That is NOT good, and we don’t need more of it.

                  SAUCE OR GTFO

                  You better come with more than “evidence is very strong”, because now you sound like one of those Fox and Friends stains.

                • Old Kentucky Shark

                  Dr. Acula, look below if you want to know what my immigration policy would be. I’m fine with having Mexican PhDs or Colombian engineers move to the United States, what I don’t want to do is import a massive underclass.

                • witlesschum

                  (deleted, I promised I wouldn’t feed trolls)

              • Old Kentucky Shark

                And playing the Holocaust card? Seriously?

        • liberalrob

          I live in Dallas. Where do you live?

          Helping foreigners does not have to be at the expense of our own citizens.

          • Old Kentucky Shark

            Prince William County, Virginia. So I’ve seen the entire eastern 2/3 of a locality trashed and bankrupted by the policies you espouse. The likes of you successfully took all the bad parts of Los Angeles (up to and including gang warfare) and brought them to my hometown. You should feel proud.

            • Woodrowfan

              for those not familiar with northern VA, Prince William County is known for its bigoted anti-immigrant policies, It’s people who fled Arlington/Falls Church/eastern Fairfax because too many of “those people” lived there. Their county does its best to make sure than any Hispanic is made to feel unwelcome (at least once their lawns are mowed). And they define “illegal” as “having brown skin”. Our new troll is basically a run-of-the-mill bigot.

              FWIW, I live in a heavily Hispanic area and have El Salvadorian neighbors. I’d rather have them for neighbors (they’ve nice folk) that Shark (eye roll)

              • Old Kentucky Shark

                For feeling “unwelcome”, they sure do keep moving here.

                Fairfax Schools is going bankrupt btw. Why? Mass immigration.

                • Gregor Sansa

                  Yes, this country has never successfully dealt with immigration without going bankrupt. What is poor Bill Howell to do?

                • Lost Left Coaster

                  Please explain how “mass immigration” makes a school go bankrupt.

                  Maybe you can explain how the state of Virginia funds its schools? Is funding not provided based on the number of students enrolled?

                • Old Kentucky Shark

                  ESL classes and other specialized services needed for kids who often can’t even read in Spanish ain’t cheap. And the curriculum has to be dumbed-down because so much of the school is now illiterate (in any language) hurting native-born kids.

              • Is Prince William County anywhere near COLONIAL HEIGHTS? Do they have a pizza tax?

          • Old Kentucky Shark

            And, btw, where I live was a heck of a lot more equal in the 1980s before mass immigration. I imagine Dallas was too.

            Importing a large servant class is insanity if you want greater economic equality. It will just lead to the kind of caste system we see in Latin America (and now, of course, in Southern California).

            • liberalrob

              It certainly was a heck of a lot more equal before the Reagan Administration came in and cut taxes on the wealthy. The “mass immigration” of Republican policy into the federal government in the 1970’s and 80’s certainly did cause a lot of inequality.

              • Old Kentucky Shark

                It was fine up until the 2000s when they got imported to build McMansions for the wealthy fucks moving out to Fauquier and Culpeper.

                • Old Kentucky Shark

                  Basically, cheap labor for the rich, dump the negative externalities on the working and middle class. And this is what progressives want to defend?

                • Ransom Stoddard

                  Let me help you use those words correctly. Pecuniary externality =/= negative externality.

  • Old Kentucky Shark

    A sane immigration policy would look a lot more like the Canadian or Australian policies: a points system based on in-demand skills. That way you get people at the upper end of the income scale who can depress wages there, “flattening” incomes and leading to greater equality.

    That’s what we need–not importing a massive peon class of car washeroos and landscapers.

    • DrDick

      I am sorry, but you would not recognize sanity if it bit you on the ass )which is as close as you will ever come to it). Go back to whichever far right racist fever swamp you crawled out of.

    • ThrottleJockey

      The income inequality we’re trying to remedy isn’t inequality caused by the upper middle class but the kind caused by trust fund babies (the 1%ers)>

  • MDrew

    The out-migration from further South may have died down, I’m not sure, but you’re missing a big part of this story. The U.S. prevailed on Mexico, through arm-twisting and bribery, to crack down on migrants leaving the gang-ridden countries to try to come to at least mexico if not the U.S. That;s because under the Convention on the Status of the Refugee we have to take them on and prove they’re not refugees if they make it onto U.S. soil. Not that we perfectly meet that obligation, but regardless, it’s preferable to out government that they never make it than that they have o do that. So they got Mexico to interdict the flow, sending thousands back to Honduras, El Salvador, etc.

    More here: http://onpoint.wbur.org/2015/10/15/mexico-central-america-migrant-crisis

  • Malaclypse

    Am I the only one remembering the pledge to not feed Jennie?

    • Hogan

      The pledge to what now?

    • witlesschum

      Yeah, we’re gonna have a “don’t feed the trolls” talking to post from Lemieux at some point soon.

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