Trump wants El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to stop emigration by force of will. They can’t

By | April 9, 2019

Eliza Willis and Janet Seiz write:

Making good on previous threats, President Donald Trump recently declared an end to aid to El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, blaming the three governments for failing to stop the flow of their citizens to the United States. “They have ALL been taking U.S. money for years,” he tweeted, “and doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING for us.” If his public statements are any guide, Trump appears to believe that the three countries—Central America’s so-called Northern Triangle—can shut down the flow of emigrants at will.

They can’t. The same factors that lead to outmigration—crushing poverty, widespread crime and violence, and weak government institutions—also limit these governments’ ability to entice residents to stay. Trump can fire up his political base with his demand that emigration cease immediately, but addressing conditions that developed in Central America over many decades will demand a longer time horizon.

Perhaps Trump is imagining that armed guards posted at the Northern Triangle countries’ borders could keep would-be emigrants from leaving, but doing so would violate both international norms and national constitutions. Article 13 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.” El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala all recognize freedom of movement as a right. Forbidding citizens to leave is what authoritarian dictatorships do. [Continue reading…]

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