Wednesday 5 October 2022

Latin American migrants in the United States: a tool for political purposes?

Two U.S. Republican governors have sent migrants to states run by Democrats. This has been criticized by human rights defenders. Some maintain that they are being used with a view to the elections.

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05 October 2022 - At The Banks - BCCR

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Q REPORTS (DW) This week, the governor of the state of Texas, Greg Abbott, sent two buses with Latin American migrants to the vicinity of the residence of US Vice President Kamala Harris in Washington D.C..

A migrant from Venezuela, who boarded a bus in Texas, waits to be transported to a local church by volunteers after being dropped off outside the residence of Vice President Kamala Harris in Washington (09/19/2022).

Also, the governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, sent a group of 50 migrants by plane to the wealthy island of Martha’s Vineyard, in Massachusetts, also from Texas. In both cases, most of them are Venezuelans.

Transfer of migrants could be a “crime of fraud”

“The Biden-Harris administration continues to ignore and deny the historic crisis at our southern border, which has endangered and overwhelmed Texas communities for nearly two years,” Abbott said Thursday. “Texas will continue to send immigrants to sanctuary cities like Washington D.C. until President Biden and Border Czar Harris step up and do their jobs to secure the border,” he warned.

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In a press release published the following day, Abbott’s office detailed that Texas has sent more than 8,000 migrants overland to the US capital since April, more than 2,500 to New York City and more than 600 to Chicago since August.

The so-called Operation Lone Star “continues to fill the dangerous gaps left” by the US government by refusing to “secure the border,” the statement said. “Every individual that is apprehended or arrested and every gram of drugs seized would otherwise have found their way into communities across Texas and the nation because of President Biden’s open border policies.”

Several organizations defending the rights of migrants rejected these actions and consider that they respond to political motivation.

Carolina Jiménez, president of the human rights defense organization The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), explains in a conversation with DW that “the information that has been collected so far seems to indicate that these flights were carried out under deception,” since that “many migrants have told lawyers, human rights defenders and the press that they had been told they were going to Boston and that they were also going to receive support for labor integration and ended up on an island totally unknown to them.”

“We could be facing the crime of fraud,” she warns, indicating that the governors “are transporting people with false information.”

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Presidential aspirations behind the transfer of migrants

Likewise, Jiménez points out that there could be two intentions behind the sending of migrants by Abbott and DeSantis to states with Democratic governments. The first is that in November 2022 there will be mid-term elections in the United States. “There is a very strong struggle between the parties and the Republican Party wants to retake control of Congress that it lost in the last elections.”

In addition, the expert recalls that both Abbott and DeSantis “have presidential aspirations”, with a view to the 2024 elections, “which implies a race for the presidential nomination of each party” and “each wants to show that he is the strong man against illegal migration”.

The case of Venezuelan migration is particularly alarming. Nearly 7 million Venezuelans have left their country, according to the UN, making this the largest exodus on a global scale, along with the one caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The big difference is that in Venezuela there is no war.

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Furthermore, many of these migrants are now embarking on a deadly journey on foot from Venezuela to the United States. And there are frightening reports of the hardships and terrible stories they have to suffer when crossing the feared Darién jungle, between Colombia and Panama, where several of them have died, according to the media, although there are no official figures.

The second intention, according to Jiménez, is “to send a dissuasive message, to tell people that they are leaving Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, crossing that horror that is the Darien Gap and going up through Central America and Mexico to reach the United States, that it is better that they do not arrive because this type of thing can happen to them here.

Part of the Venezuelan migrants who were transported by bus from Texas to the Naval Observatory in Washington D.C., on September 15, 2022.

Shared responsibility and transnationality

“The (U.S.) federal government could invest a heck of a lot more in asylum infrastructure,” as it is “terribly difficult” for migrants arriving in US border states to go through the asylum process. “There has been no investment in the United States asylum system, which was also tremendously damaged during the Trump administration,” says the expert.

However, “the migratory phenomenon always implies shared responsibility because, within the diverse human phenomena that exist, the migratory phenomenon is one of those that by its nature implies transnationality and border crossing.”

In this sense, “without a doubt, we must always look at the root of a forced migration.” The fact that in this case, the majority of the migrants sent to Washington and Massachusetts are Venezuelans is due to the fact that “the Venezuelan exodus continues because Venezuela is a country where human rights are massively violated and where a complex humanitarian emergency continues to exist that has put the population in a situation of even food insecurity.”

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