Uninhabitable: Central America’s Northern Triangle and Past

Credit: Foreign Relations Council

By Larry J. Schweiger
Pittsburgh Current Climate Columnist

As I watched unaccompanied children enter our southern border from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, I thought of my great-grandmother. She was an unaccompanied 13 year old who fled abject poverty and hunger in Galway, Ireland. When she set foot on Ellis Island, her family had enough money for a third grade “steering”, about five pounds, or about half the worker’s annual earnings. She traveled to the Northside of Pittsburgh and lived with a distant relative she had never met before. Later in life, she was known for her generosity. She put a shelf out of her northside kitchen window and put groceries out daily for those in need. She baked two cakes, one for the family and one for the window shelf. She knew hunger and lived in poverty, and that memory never left her. Moriah longed to see her family and home again, but it shouldn’t be.

Just like the Irish during the famine, Central American parents do the difficult out of fear. Faced with systemic corruption hopelessly faced with deadly gangs in an increasingly hostile climate, these parents send offspring on a dangerous journey to America. Homeland Security Minister Alejandro N. Mayorkas In summary: “Poverty, high levels of violence and corruption in Mexico and the countries of the Northern Triangle have been driving migration to our southwestern border for years. The adverse circumstances have continued to worsen. Two damaging hurricanes that struck and swept through Honduras made living conditions there even worse and led more children and families to flee. Mayorkas added that the Trump administration had “demolished the Central American minors program to avoid children making the dangerous journey to our southwestern border.”

The Atlantic Council, building a better future, pushed for a “spirit of bipartisanism (that has the potential to solve the region’s challenges once and for all”). Instead, House Minority Chairman Kevin McCarthy (also of Irish descent) and twelve Republican lawmakers took a trip to further divide Americans and politicize a humanitarian crisis. At the El Paso Central Processing Center, McCarthy said, “I came here because I heard about the crisis. It’s more than a crisis, this is a human heartbreak. The sad part about all of this didn’t have to happen. This crisis is caused by the presidential policy of this new administration. There is no other way to claim this than a Biden border crisis. “Biden’s policies did not trigger the ongoing crisis. Instead of looking for humane bipartisan solutions, McCarthy seized the moment to shift the blame. Hoping Americans would forget that the Trump administration tore down lawful avenues for children to come to the United States in a safe, efficient, and orderly manner, McCarthy fueled further divisions.

Migrants from the region are not new. Overall migration had already reached three million before 2014. Since then, many unaccompanied minors have appeared on the southwest border and been ill-treated by Trump. McCarthy worked with the Trump administration to fund the building with safe and sufficient facilities to meet the needs of children seeking refuge rather than separating them from their parents or turning them back. McCarthy missed his chance to do the right thing. He is now looking for ways of demagoguery at the expense of asylum-seeking children.

The common minded practice of separating children from their parents was un-American. Representative Kevin McCarthy, Senator Mitch McConnell, and especially Donald Trump with Republican control had four years to address the growing regional threats and did nothing. Mayorkas replied, “The previous government completely dismantled the asylum system. The system has been gutted, facilities have been closed and they have cruelly displaced young children into the hands of traffickers. We had to rebuild the entire system, including the policies and procedures required to administer the asylum laws that Congress passed long ago. “

Instead of border walls, Trump’s efforts should have focused on humanitarian interventions to combat crime and hunger in the region. They failed to fund foreign aid and appropriate crime prevention measures. Mayorkas noted, “The previous government also cut foreign aid funding for the Northern Triangle. In El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, we have no longer allocated resources to address the root causes of people fleeing their homes. “

Trump also reversed American efforts to address the profound threats posed by the climate crisis. If we cannot stop pollution, we must prepare for more mass migrations of displaced people from uninhabitable regions. Here in the United States is that Overview of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration In summary, “The United States has seen 285 weather and climate catastrophes since 1980 with total damage / costs of $ 1 billion or more. The total cost of these 285 events exceeds $ 1.875 trillion. ”At the northern equator, conditions in the northern triangle are much worse. In the porthole of the climate crisis, the region could soon become uninhabitable unless courageous measures can end carbon pollution around the world. In May 2017, the Atlantic Council published a better future A blueprint for the Northern Triangle of Central America Warning: “To many Americans, the difficult problems facing the Northern Triangle of Central America may seem distant, but the future of the United States is tied to these countries as some of our closest neighbors. Geography alone shows that their stability and prosperity are vital to our national interest. ” Amelia Cheatham writes for the Council on Foreign Relations Report 100 Turbulent northern triangle of Central America To summarize it this way: “Setbacks in agriculture, including unpredictable weather and devastating coffee rust, have fueled food insecurity and have become a leading driver of migration. Experts say that population growth and climate change are linked to an increasing number of extreme weather events. could continue to weigh on the economies of the Northern Triangle and drive more migration. “

Jonathan Blitzer from The New Yorker wrote about how climate change is forcing farmers in Guatemala to leave their country “In the past few years, and what almost everyone was saying to someone, was that in the last six or seven years, things really started to change. The weather patterns began to get erratic. The rain didn’t come when it was supposed to come. And it became increasingly impossible for people to grow their staple foods – growing potatoes, growing corn. As a result, not only did they have nothing to eat, but nothing to survive to sell. As a result, people increasingly left their country and went north. “

Mark L. Schneider from the Center for Strategic and International Studies gave a report entitled “Where Are the Countries of the Northern Triangle Going?” Out. And what is US policy? The Northern Triangle has “dramatic effects on weather conditions, rainfall, soil quality, the susceptibility of plants to disease and thus on farmers and the local economy. Storms, floods and droughts are increasing in the region. According to the US Agency for International Development, countries in the Northern Triangle will experience less rainfall and prolonged periods of drought in the coming years. In Honduras, rainfall will be low in areas where it is needed, while in other areas, flooding will increase by 60%. In Guatemala, the arid regions will creep further and further into the current agricultural areas and let the farmers dry out. And El Salvador is projected to lose 10-28% of its coastline before the end of the century. How will all these people survive and where will they go?

Regional violence and environmental degradation are inextricably linked. Noting President Biden’s Executive Order, Mayorkas said, “Securing our borders does not require us to ignore the humanity of those who try to cross them.” We are both a nation of law and a nation of immigrants. It’s one of our proudest traditions. “Mark Schneider concluded:” An unstable planet and an unstable ecosystem are suitable for an unstable society, for divisions, for economic insecurity and for human brutality. When someone’s home becomes less and less habitable, they move elsewhere. Wouldn’t each of us do the same? “

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