Asked about the CBP assessment of food insecurity, several migration experts in Guatemala said they do not believe this year’s surge is the result of an acute crisis. Rather, they say, it’s the product of years of grinding poverty, crime and increasingly well-developed smuggling networks seeking out new customers.
According to Julia Gonzales Deras, the executive director of the National Roundtable on Guatemalan Migration, the causes in the country’s western highlands remain the same as they have for years: poverty, unemployment and insecurity tied to criminal groups.
“We haven’t observed any change in the trend of migrants going to the United States. People continue to leave because the conditions of their lives here are not improving,” Deras said.Migration from Central America has never been about a single factor. Most of us writing about Central America's Northern Triangle typically write about a combination of push and pull factors causing people to flee, even if some of us emphasize one or two factors over others.
In El Salvador and Honduras, people often flee because of gang violence. Sometimes they flee because of targeted violence while at other times their decision might come after two decades of surviving perilous conditions.
Guatemalans, on the other hand, have more often left for economic reasons. The lack of jobs, food insecurity, roya, drought, flooding, etc. Some people flee because of gang violence, particularly from areas of the capital, while others flee organized crime and drug traffickers, particularly those from areas outside of the capital. There is also the increasing repression of social movement activists, broadly defined, causing outward migration.
The United States has the capacity and the need to accept more immigrants. We can implement policies that would make it easier for people to move from Central America to the United States and vice versa. It is in our self interest to help cultivate conditions in Central America in order to reduce people's need to flee. It's not clear how dedicated the Trump administration is to this effort. And I've been in favor of dedicating more resources to the asylum process so that we can fairly and justly resolve cases. The Trump administration wants more resources to process asylum cases but it has given no indication that it wants to process them in the spirit of the law. They just want to close as many as quickly as possible.