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In attempting to curtail immigration, the U.S. looks for allies in Latin America

 U.S. President Joe Biden greets President of Mexico Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador during a welcome ceremony as part of the '2023 North American Leaders' Summit at Palacio Nacional on January 09, 2023 in Mexico City, Mexico. <br/>
Hector Vivas/Getty Images
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Getty Images South America
U.S. President Joe Biden greets President of Mexico Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador during a welcome ceremony as part of the '2023 North American Leaders' Summit at Palacio Nacional on January 09, 2023 in Mexico City, Mexico.

Last week President Joe Biden announced Executive Actions which, with some exceptions, effectively closes the border to most undocumented asylum seekers.

This is the latest of a series of measures the administration has enacted in recent weeks with the goal of curtailing illegal immigration into the country.

In pursuing that objective, the administration has also been leaning on governments of Mexico and Central America, where the outcome of recent presidential elections could impact the flow of migrants to the US.

US immigration policy is toothless without Mexican cooperation, which has been in effect for decades.

Current President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been accepting deportees, and last year deployed the Mexican national guard to police migration, leading to serious accusations of human rights abuses.

The recent election of President Claudia Scheinbaum is unlikely to change much, migration has become a major issue in Mexico.

“It now is a priority for Mexico”, says Lila Abad, of the Wilson Center. “And that’s because Mexico is no longer just a transit country. It is now a destination country.”

Like her predecessor, Scheinbaum has said that in order to stop immigration, root causes like poverty must be addressed.

While the recent Mexican elections don’t change much, there have been several significant shifts in Central America. Panama recently electedPresident Jose Raul Mulino, who has vowed to close the Darien Gap, the dangerous jungle region that hundreds of thousands of migrants trek through to get to the U.S. every year. It’s not clear how Mulino would do that.

Then in El Salvador Nayib Bukele started on June 1 a second term as president. The US has had an uneasy relationship with the self-described“worlds coolest dictator”. But last week Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas attended his presidential inauguration ceremony.

Roman Gressier from the newspaper El Faro In English says, it’s clear that the Biden Administration has shifted its stance to “we're not getting in the mud on the issue of unconstitutional re-election, and we are stressing migration cooperation, and economic.”

El Salvador's President Nayib Bukele and his daughter Layla salute while standing on a balcony with first lady Gabriela Roberta Rodríguez, after he was sworn in for a second term, in San Salvador, El Salvador, Saturday, June 1, 2024.
Salvador Melendez/AP / AP
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AP
El Salvador's President Nayib Bukele and his daughter Layla salute while standing on a balcony with first lady Gabriela Roberta Rodríguez, after he was sworn in for a second term, in San Salvador, El Salvador, Saturday, June 1, 2024.

At the end of the day, immigration analysts say deterrence alone doesn’t work long term to curb irregular migration, certainly not when people are fleeing for their lives.

To that point, perhaps one of the most impacting of migration is happening in Venezuela, a country going through a severe humanitarian crisis. Around 7.7 million Venezuelan migrants and refugees have been displaced as of last year. The exodus shows no signs of slowing down.

Estefani, a Venezuelan mom living in a New York City shelter, recently told NPR she knew the route to the U.S. could be dangerous, even deadly, but she didn’t feel she had a choice. She asked for her name to be withheld because she was sexually assaulted on her journey.

“Raising a child in Venezuela is very difficult. You can feed them lunch, but then there’s no dinner,” she said.

Estefani tried to live in Colombia and Ecuador, and eventually got desperate enough that she ventured to the U.S.

As presidential campaigns intensify in the United States, there is a growing pressure for Latin American countries to help enforce immigration. But analysts say that as long as people like Estefani see no other choice but to pick up and leave their country, any deterrence policies in the U.S.-Mexico border is no more than a short-lived fix.

Copyright 2024 NPR

Jasmine Garsd is an Argentine-American journalist living in New York. She is currently NPR's Criminal Justice correspondent and the host of The Last Cup. She started her career as the co-host of Alt.Latino, an NPR show about Latin music. Throughout her reporting career she's focused extensively on women's issues and immigrant communities in America. She's currently writing a book of stories about women she's met throughout her travels.

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