On March 15th 2019, President Trump issued his first veto, rejecting legislation approved by Congress to overturn his declaration of a national emergency at the southern border. Trump declared this national emergency in order to shift money allocated for other federal purposes to the building of a wall at America’s border with Mexico. In a bipartisan vote Congress expressed their disagreement with Trump’s calling for a national emergency, viewing it as a way to get funding for a project the legislative branch had recently refused in the budget passed on February 14th 2019.
Passage of that budget avoided another government shutdown, which would have begun only three weeks after the end of the longest shutdown in American history. During those 35 days, 800,000 federal employees missed two paychecks, Americans were left to deal with diminished services and the affects of the lack of federal funding to governmental agencies across the nation. A major sticking point in passing the budget was the disagreement over the funding of Trump’s wall. The budget passed by Congress did not provide the funding Trump said was needed. However, in order to keep government open the President signed the bill, but swiftly followed it by declaring a national emergency. Trump says the wall is necessary to “secure the border and stop the criminal gangs, drug smugglers, and human traffickers” from entering the country. In fact, as reported in the New York Times, [m]ore than 76,000 migrants crossed the border without authorization in February. However, the reasons delineated by Trump are reportedly not the reasons why foreigners trek from their home countries and attempt to enter the United States.
Despite President Trump’s initial campaign calls for preventing Mexicans from entering the United States, Forbes reports “Central America is now responsible for most of the fluctuation in illegal migrant flows northward” Specifically, migrants from the Northern Triangle, which refers to the three Central American countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, are fleeing their native countries for the US. The Northern Triangle is home to many issues including gang violence, poverty, drug abuse, domestic and sexual abuse.
One of the biggest issues currently facing the Northern Triangle is rampant homicide rates. According to US News and World Report, “[w]ith 60 murders per 100,000 people in 2017, El Salvador was the deadliest place in the world that was not at war. Almost 4,000 people were killed there last year.” These numbers have reached record highs, and are not limited to El Salvador. Honduras had 42.8 murders for every 100,000 people in 2017, while this number has decreased from previous years, it still comes in as one of the world’s highest murder rates. These homicide rates are connected to other problems faced by these nations, such as drugs and gangs.
These high murder rates alone are enough to make many fear for their safety in these countries. However, that is nowhere near the end of the issues that plague the Northern Triangle. Guatemala specifically exemplifies a huge problem experienced by those living in the Northern Triangle: poverty. According to Fox News “About 60 percent of Guatemalans live in poverty [and even] for those with jobs, almost 95 percent earn salaries insufficient to meet a family’s basic needs.” This extreme poverty and the lack of financial safety nets found in these countries, also leads to poor health among their citizens.
Another danger facing the Northern Triangle is the rampant gang violence found within these countries. These gangs largely affected the increased homicide rates previously mentioned, due to massive turf wars spurred on by the gangs’ increasing strength. The gangs also hurt the already impoverished citizens. As stated by the Atlantic, “[i]n countries like El Salvador and Honduras, parents living in what are popularly known as ‘red zones’ – usually communities plagued by gangs – have to spend hard-earned money on private transport or after school programs to avoid their kids coming into contact with criminal groups.” Many citizens who are unrelated to the gang violence try to escape this reality by immigrating to the United States, and not because they participate in gangs.
Gangs also contribute to an overarching issue of corruption in Central American governments. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, there have been many findings of gangs, such as MS-13 giving money to high ranking officials. With pay offs like this, the urge to implement necessary criminal justice laws, are almost non-existent. As a result, people run away in hopes of a better and safer life elsewhere else. Parents often fear for their children’s life from gang violence, which is one reason many families are now trying to come to America.
While these few issues highlight the reasons behind Northern Triangle residents need to escape, they are not nearly the end to the current problems in Central America. While there is evidence to support that illegal immigration leads to some unsavory people getting into the United States, these numbers are extremely low and far outweighed by those that come for legitimate reasons.