One year ago, 160 men, women and children set off from San Pedro Sula in Honduras, in the first widely televised Central American human caravan. By the time the migrants reached the border of Guatemala and Mexico, their numbers had swelled to 7,000. Most of the women, men and children undertook the desperate flight because they feared for their lives, not because they wanted American jobs or to live the "American dream". They recounted stories similar in horror to the warzones in the Middle East and Africa. Some 700,000 people fled their homes in northern Central America last year alone, mostly because of brutal violence. Over 10,000 people were killed over the same period. The region holds some of the worst violence statistics in the world. The number of asylum applications from northern Central America is only comparable with countries at war, according to the UNHCR. Hondurans, Guatemalans, Salvadorans and Mexicans were among the top 10 nationalities claiming asylum last year, alongside people from Syria, South Sudan and Afghanistan.
Despite the tragedy and suffering of human lives, the US continues its war against asylum-seekers. Declaring El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras "safe third countries", it aims to cut off access to the US asylum system before families can even reach the border. This is in addition to building walls and cutting off aid to the countries from where people flee. These measures will only fuel hopelessness and drive the impulse to escape for safety in the north.
The US denial of the societal collapse close to the southern border is similar to Europe's shameful denial of the massive loss of lives in the Mediterranean. There is political apathy to engage in a crisis of this scale in the US's own backyard. Politicians were more interested in discussing conflicts in far off lands where US influence is commensurably smaller. Congress reflects little chance or interest in a change of policy. Similar to building a stronger Fortress Europe, US government attention is squarely focused on the shape and funding of its southern wall. Massive border control measures are expensive and inefficient.
The solution to the crisis in Central America does not lie in the great escape north. It will depend on displacing the political and economic elites of these countries. American fellow-workers must show solidarity and support for their Central American neighbours, not turn their backs on them.
The World Socialist Party of the United States urge our American fellow-workers to show solidarity and support for their Central American neighbours, not turn their backs on them.