“We have no future here”
November 20, 2018 8:56 AM   Subscribe

Why Are So Many Guatemalans Migrating to the U.S.?

As poverty and violence force Guatemalans to leave their country, one anthropologist reflects on her work with Indigenous peoples in the highlands—and shows how the U.S. is implicated in its own “migrant crisis.”

posted by poffin boffin (14 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
"Implicated" is a pretty mild word for the fact that the US is probably the single most responsible party for the messes across Central America. By rights, we should allow all people interested from Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua to enter the US just because of the havoc we caused there over the decades. And probably Panama and Belize as well. Letting them immigrate and be given immediate legal status would be the smallest apology for our malfeasance.

But in 2018, it honestly confuses my why so many migrants from Central America want to forge forward into Trump's US rather than stop in Mexico and seek asylum there. Mexico is a signatory to the same treaties that require them to accept asylum requests from those under threat in their native country. The article makes no case for why people are choosing to pass through Mexico and come to the US rather than stay in Mexico, both closer to their native country and speaking the same main language. There's only a vague aside to the fact that many who did stay in Mexico went back after the Guatemalan peace accord in the 90s, but nothing about why some (I don't know how many) are choosing to disregard Mexico.
posted by tclark at 9:24 AM on November 20, 2018 [3 favorites]


it honestly confuses my why so many migrants from Central America want to forge forward into Trump's US rather than stop in Mexico

Uh, how about... those... wages?
posted by likethemagician at 9:40 AM on November 20, 2018 [5 favorites]


Uh, how about... those... wages?

Is it wages or is it life and death safety? One of those isn't covered by the asylum treaties.

Before an almost predictable pile-on, I think we should let them in in any case, because we OWE the people of Central America for the looting and bullshit we've pulled for over a century.

But if they're seeking asylum for fear of their lives, not stopping in Mexico because they can make more in the US certainly puts that asylum claim on shaky ground. As a matter of fact, it might be a violation of asylum treaties to not seek and accept asylum from the first country you can.

If it's economic opportunity, call it that. If it's fear of murder by local mafia and gangs, then Mexico is also bound by treaty to grant asylum.
posted by tclark at 10:01 AM on November 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


If it's economic opportunity, call it that. If it's fear of murder by local mafia and gangs, then Mexico is also bound by treaty to grant asylum.

It's both: they are fleeing violence. But they also need to continue support their families at home, where the economies have been shattered by violence and chaos. Even first-world wages don't go far when you're trying to support several family members with remittances (including children and elderly relatives who can't get out). A colleague of mine in Canada was granted asylum after leaving a war-zone 40 years ago; he's still sending remittances to relatives in his home country, even as he just retired here.
posted by jb at 10:20 AM on November 20, 2018 [7 favorites]


As a matter of fact, it might be a violation of asylum treaties to not seek and accept asylum from the first country you can.

It's absolutely not relevant under US asylum law, though, which provides for that kind of provision only if there's a bilateral or multilateral agreement with the third country. We have no such agreement with Mexico (we do with Canada, but I believe that's it), largely because (per my understanding) their asylum system just wasn't determined to be reliable enough for people to be guaranteed of receiving a fair hearing there.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:40 AM on November 20, 2018 [9 favorites]


Mexico's asylum system is woefully inadequate and incapable of helping the people fleeing the crises in Central America right now. Vox did a great video about it recently.
posted by Pfardentrott at 11:44 AM on November 20, 2018 [4 favorites]


We have no such agreement with Mexico (we do with Canada, but I believe that's it), largely because (per my understanding) their asylum system just wasn't determined to be reliable enough for people to be guaranteed of receiving a fair hearing there.

There is currently a call in Canada to end the "Safe-Third Country" agreement with the United States. There is some evidence that the US has denied refugee status to individuals who are later deemed to be eligible in Canada, such as people fleeing persecution because they are LGBT.
posted by jb at 12:01 PM on November 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


We can process asylum appplications for every Guatemalan who arrives,

OR:

we can continue militarizing the border, which will mean issuing a badge and a gun to anyone with a pulse who steps forward to join the border patrol.

The latter option is already proving to be a bit of a hazard for public safety.
posted by ocschwar at 12:08 PM on November 20, 2018


If it's economic opportunity, call it that. If it's fear of murder by local mafia and gangs, then Mexico is also bound by treaty to grant asylum.

The people who surround migrants in transit are not the kind of people anybody wants to stay around. Part of why migrants seek out the western world is that our predators are much more genteel.
posted by srboisvert at 12:54 PM on November 20, 2018


I have a good friend from El Salvador, currently living in California. He desperately misses his home, but there are no jobs for him there. When his stunningly beautiful daughter came of age, he felt he had no choice but to leave lest she be kidnapped by gangs and forced into slavery. Now that she's grown and married to an American, he could conceivably return, and the Trump administration may mandate it anyway. But he knows there is no future for him there.
posted by Brocktoon at 1:10 PM on November 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


their asylum system just wasn't determined to be reliable enough for people to be guaranteed of receiving a fair hearing there

Oh, the irony.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 1:44 PM on November 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


The article doesn't go this far back, but my family immigrated to the U.S. from Guatemala, a little over a hundred years ago. Then-President Estrada Cabrera jailed my great-grandparents as political prisoners - my great-grandmother as a proxy prisoner after her husband fled to California - in his terrorist regime. Only one person went back after Estrada was ousted: the initial target of Estrada, my great-grandfather. His wife and sons said hell no and went on to make significant contributions to the then-nascent Los Angeles cultural scene, which was about to explode and help make SoCal very attractive to European immigrants.

Thank you for posting this, poffin boffin. Our U.S. family hasn't had much to do with our Guatemalan family since the CIA did their shit there in the '50s. Cousins fled to us here then. Then, they went back. People love their homeland. My great-grandfather died there, away from all his sons and their families.
posted by goofyfoot at 6:50 PM on November 23, 2018






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