For countries in Central America, the U.S. immigration laws are important. Many Hondurans and Guatemalans enter the States illegally to find a better life.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement division of the Department of Homeland Security has the job of rounding up and deporting those who violated U.S. immigration laws. But let’s be realistic here. Most of those arrested for immigration violations were first arrested for some other crime.
Once arrested for immigration violations, the people are processed and repatriated to their home countries. How those people are treated is of vital concern to the countries they come from. (Just as the U.S. is concerned how its citizens are treated in foreign jails.)
About a month ago ICE hosted a familiarization trip for Honduran and Guatemalan immigration officials to help them learn more about the United States’ detention and removal process and policies.
This visit was BIG news in the Honduran press. But only now are U.S. media outlets picking up on the story.
Washington, DC – Last month, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) hosted a familiarization trip for Honduran and Guatemalan immigration officials to learn more about the United States’ detention and removal process and policies, and to strengthen ties between the United States and both countries.
During this three-day trip, the officials, along with foreign service nationals and representatives from foreign nongovernmental organizations, traveled to south Texas to gain personal insight into the lifecycle of the detention and removal process.
For the Hondurans and Guatemalans the visit was an eye-opener. The visits also help ease relations between the United States and the Central American countries. The visitors saw first-hand how the detention and deportation process worked — instead of relying on rumors. And facts — seen and touched — carry weight when countries try to work together to solve a problem.
For the Central American countries part of the problem is that some of their most ambitious people are leaving because of limited opportunities in their home countries. Another part of the problem is that those who are caught committing a crime in the States and then being found to not have the U.S. proper immigration papers bring their criminal wiles to back home.
For those who leave because they see little hope for a better life in their home countries, USAID has been addressing that issue for some time. My wife and I have met a number of Honduran farmers who contemplated leaving for the States so they could earn enough money to feed and clothe their families. But after they signed up for the Feed the Future program, they found that within a year they could earn enough to not only feed their families but clothe and educate their children.
Explaining the treatment of people detained and deported is an important story for people in other countries and in the USA to understand. But it is only one part of a much larger story.
Without justifying why people illegally enter the United States, stories about why people face the dangers of illegal immigration needs to be told. Americans need to know what social, economic or political forces drive these people from their homeland and their families to risk the trip north.
Along those lines, about programs designed to help countries grow economically and socially — and thereby slow down illegal migration — need to be done.
For less than 1 percent of the U.S. federal budget USAID is working to build stable and prosperous countries around the world. The people who benefit from those programs are not only the ones in Latin America and Africa but also the United States. Prosperous countries buy more imported goods. And the U.S. can be a supplier of those goods.
If other countries are socially secure and economically well off (or at least getting better), their people will see opportunities at home and work harder to help their own country grow. And when they start buying U.S. goods, that means more export-related jobs in the United States.
But too often the links back to the States of foreign development aid are not made. And the political rhetoric encourages drastic cuts without any consideration to long-term effects.