On July 29, the White House published its Strategy to Address the Root Causes of Migration in Central America. This strategy was developed after Vice President Harris took charge of the issue in February and visited the so-called Northern Triangle.
To achieve “a democratic, prosperous and safe Central America”, it proposes 5 pillars and 14 objectives. Summarized, its 37 actions are legal certainty and investment-enabling reforms; embracing technology; opportunities for women, youth and minorities; facilitating trade; partnering with multilaterals and the private sector; cross-border energy infrastructure; access to education and health; resilience in agriculture; renewable energy; independence of the justice sector; transparency; effi...
To achieve “a democratic, prosperous and safe Central America”, it proposes 5 pillars and 14 objectives. Summarized, its 37 actions are legal certainty and investment-enabling reforms; embracing technology; opportunities for women, youth and minorities; facilitating trade; partnering with multilaterals and the private sector; cross-border energy infrastructure; access to education and health; resilience in agriculture; renewable energy; independence of the justice sector; transparency; efficacy of legislative branches; empowering public and private sector actors; supporting civil society and media; preventing and addressing corruption and sanctioning corrupt actors; improving government finances; targeting marginalized populations; protecting human rights defenders and at-risk populations; ensuring accountability; curbing extrajudicial killings; civil society protections; protecting trade unionists and organizations; improving legal frameworks; strengthening independent media; civilian policing and its accountability; building trusted partners and regional cooperation against crime; safe spaces and meaningful alternatives for youth and reintegrating offenders; and preventing and prosecuting sexual, gender-based and domestic violence and supporting their victims.
But the US already does all these things . All of them in Central America, and all of them in Guatemala through federal agencies like USAID, the Department of the Treasury, DEA, MCC and others.
Don’t get me wrong: these are positive activities that add tremendous value in addressing the problems neglected by the Central American governments. But writing up a list of what you do is not developing a strategy, even if you give it that title on a nicely laid-out cover. Unless the White House has an additional secret ingredient, the compilation of actions that are already underway will not achieve different results than those already obtained... from that same collection of actions.
It’s not hard to see why. Just as compiling interventions is not a solution, compiling disorders is not an explanation. Yes, in Guatemala there is economic insecurity and inequality, corruption and democratic deficit, disrespect for rights and for the press, organized violence and crime, and sexual, gender and domestic violence—the issues addressed by the five pillars in the White House’s strategy. But those problems are also present in Nigeria, Colombia and Russia, to take any three countries. However, their migration doesn’t pose a problem for the US, whether for reasons as obvious as geographic barriers or as subtle as their citizen’s median income. And Mexico, for example, also has the same weaknesses, but these aren’t taken as the only basis for relations between it and the US.
The following comparison highlights the problem at the heart of the argument about Central American migration. In the US, there are more migrants from the Caribbean (4.4 million in 2017) than from Central America (3.8 million in 2019). And growth doesn’t explain the issue: between 2010 and 2017, the Central American migrant population in the United States grew 24%, while the Caribbean migrant population grew 18%. Less, but still a lot.
Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador —the countries of greatest interest— contributed 3.269 million migrants in 2019. This is 86.4% of all migrants from Central America and 11.2% of the population of those countries. A human tsunami, some might say. But it turns out that the first four Caribbean countries with migrants in the United States (Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Haiti) contribute a similar number (3.288 million people), which is 88.3% of the Caribbean migrants. And that’s 12% of these countries’ population .
In other words, not only does the Caribbean send more migrants to the United States, but they are a larger proportion of the population of origin. Good heavens! The Caribbean expels people like there’s no tomorrow! Let us urgently seek the roots of migration from the islands.
So perhaps it’s time to look elsewhere, for example to the fact that Caribbean people have a lower income than Central Americans in the United States ($47,000 per year per Caribbean household, $51,000 per year per Central American household), but also speak more English (66% among Caribbeans, 44% among Central Americans), are older (Caribbeans average 49 years versus 40 years for Central Americans) and are more educated (21% have completed high school, against 11% of Central Americans).
The roots of migration will not be found in the global South. The roots of migration are like beauty: they are all in the eyes of the beholder.
 Except, perhaps, the attention to renewable energy, but this may be a measure of my ignorance rather than of a lack of intervention.
 For the population data of the countries, I have used numbers for the corresponding year in Worldometer (see here and here).
 The White House has given up on the label irregular. Perhaps they’re simply fed up with Central Americans.
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