Program

Latin American Program in the News: "Wave of Central American migrants strains Border Patrol, reducing number of drug busts"

by Joshua Partlow and Nick Miroff, The Washington Post

Jun 20, 2014

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As the humanitarian crisis intensifies, U.S. officials are raising the pressure on their Mexican and Central American counterparts to halt the flow of migrants, many of whom are driven by violence, poverty and the perception that they will be allowed to stay if they reach U.S. soil. Secretary of State John F. Kerry raised the issue during a recent visit to Mexico. And Vice President Biden was headed to Guatemala on Friday to discuss a tightening of that country's border with Mexico.

"Even if the VP says, 'Don't come,' it's going to be a tough sell," said Eric Olson, associate director of the Latin American program at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington. There is a sense in these countries that "this is your big chance. If you want to get into the U.S., now is the time."

But migrants can cross the Mexico-Guatemala border easily, often in plain sight of Mexican checkpoints. The boundary is in a sparsely populated region of thick jungle and mountains and is highly patrolled, without the high-tech scanners, drones or imposing walls used on the U.S. border. The Mexican government does not seem interested in or capable of investing heavily to militarize its southern border, particularly with its security forces fighting drug cartels in several parts of the country and the challenge of Central American migration largely viewed as a problem for its wealthier northern neighbor.

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