Migrants are safer in their home countries


April 26, 2024

By Matt O’Brien

Killings in Honduras plummeted 16.5% between January and September 2023, falling to 31.1 per 100,000 inhabitants – down from a high of 66 per 100,000 in 2014. The number of murders in Venezuela also dropped from a 2015 high of 90 per 100,000 to only 26.8 per 100,000 in 2023. Similarly, homicides in Guatemala dropped 50% between 2014 and 2020 and have hovered around 16 +/- per 1000,000 since then. Meanwhile, El Salvador’s homicide rate dropped 70% in 2023, falling to 2.4 per 100,000 inhabitants.

Although crime rates generally fell across the United States during 2023, homicide rates remained very high in a number of major American cities. Memphis had 63.12 killings per 100,000 inhabitants, followed by St. Louis with 50.25, Baltimore with 45.62, Detroit with 42.55 and Washington, D.C. with 39.05.

Every single one of those American cities is also a major destination for migrants. And if you are statistically inclined, you may have noticed a trend. The homicide rates in many of the Central and South American countries from which hundreds of thousands of migrants are coming have been falling over the last decade. And they are now actually lower than those of many of the major U.S. cities to which migrants head.

That’s problematic, however. Americans are consistently told that the endless tide of humanity streaming across the Rio Grande consists of victims of “high levels of violence” that “are comparable to war zones.” And Britain’s national purveyor of hyperbole, The Guardian, went so far as to claim that Central America is a “Hell that the U.S. helped create.”

So, what is really going on here? How is it possible that Central and South Americans are seeking asylum from cities that are actually safer than the U.S. metropolitan areas where they are settling?

The answer is simple. The American public is being lied to in order to push a globalist, anti-borders political agenda. And the untruth that we are all being told is that illegal immigrants are justified in breaking American immigration laws because their lives are in peril.

Indeed, in a 2018 report, the Brookings Institution summarized the big fib as follows, “It is an outdated notion that people from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras are primarily looking for economic opportunity in the United States and, therefore, should wait in line for a visa. For people fleeing these countries, waiting for a visa can result in death, rape, or forcible recruitment into crime.”

The untruth that we are all being told is that illegal immigrants are justified in breaking American immigration laws because their lives are in peril.

Actually, the notion that is outdated is the one Brookings is peddling. Migrants are far more likely to be killed, raped or forcibly recruited into crime while making the journey to the United States than they would be if they simply remained home. According to Senior Border Patrol Agents testifying before Congress, criminal cartels are in charge of the cross-border routes into the United States and “Nobody crosses without paying.”  But even those who pay are subject to sexual assault, abuse and trafficking.

And that exploitation doesn’t end once migrants manage to cross the border and sneak into America. The same trafficking groups that bring illegal immigrants into the United States continue their predatory practices in migrant neighborhoods all over the country. In 2023, the Department of Labor and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement found underage migrants working in meatpacking and produce firms in 11 states. Investigators found evidence that these children may have been located and forced into indentured servitude by a criminal trafficking operation.

Adult migrants often fare no better in the workplace. Because they have no right to reside or accept employment in the United States, illegal immigrants are constantly subject to workplace abuse. Businesses that hire them usually do so because they want to cut corners by paying sub-standard wages and avoiding the costs associated with insurance and other employee benefits. In 2017, AP ran an article about companies profiting from illegal immigrant labor, then dismissing unauthorized workers when they became ill, injured or permanently incapacitated due to debilitating workplace accidents.

And, sadly, sex trafficking is as common in areas favored by migrants as forced labor. A study by the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women estimates that “60 percent of Latin American children who set out to cross the border alone or with smugglers have been caught by the cartels and are being abused in child pornography or drug trafficking.”

In light of this kind of data, it is difficult to see how organizations like Brookings can claim with a straight face that Central and South America are more dangerous than Memphis, St. Louis, Baltimore, Detroit or Washington.

In reality, if the United States wants to ensure that Salvadorans, Guatemalans and Hondurans are protected from death, rape or modern slavery, the best thing it can do is encourage them to stay home. And the easiest way to do that is to secure our border and enforce our immigration laws. The lower the chance that illegal immigrants will be allowed to remain in the U.S., the lower the likelihood they will risk the dangerous journey to get here.

Matt O’Brien is the Director of Investigations at the Immigration Reform Law Institute and the co-host of IRLI’s podcast “No Border, No Country.” Immediately prior to working for IRLI he served as an immigration judge. He has nearly 30 years of experience in immigration law and policy, having held numerous positions within the Department of Homeland Security.

Also published at Boston Herald, April 26, 2024.

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