This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Thursday, June 28, 2018

Where Have the People at the Border Come From?

Yesterday I summarized information showing that there is no crisis at the border. Rather, the sources and characteristics of people trying to cross the southern border into the U.S. without documentation is shifting from laborers from Mexico to people fleeing violence in Central America--especially the "northern triangle" of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Stephanie Leutert, who is Director of the Mexico Security Initiative at UT, Austin, published a nice analysis yesterday that adds to the picture. In particular, she takes a detailed look at the origins of these immigrants from Central America and discusses reasons for their fleeing their homes, as well as reasons why they prefer to keep going north to the U.S., rather than settling in Mexico. She put together the map below of the hometowns of people detained by the Border Patrol.

For the most part people are trying to save their lives and/or the lives of their children from gangs that will kill you if you don't cooperate, aided by governments that are too corrupt to do anything about that. Professor Rumbaut pointed me today to a story on that is even more explicit than Stephanie Leutert's article in naming the U.S. as the instigator of much of this violence. We are experiencing "blowback" from a wide range of covert CIA operations in the region over the past several decades.

Now, as to the question of why these people don't stop in Mexico, keep in mind that southern Mexico is less prosperous than the middle and northern part of that country. My colleagues Justin Stoler and Piotr Jankowski and I showed several years ago that migrants from Mexico to the U.S. were coming increasingly from the south because that's where the economy was bad and they couldn't find jobs. Furthermore, Mexico is also a violent country, even if less so than the Northern Triangle. CNN just today reported that May 2018 hit a record for homicides in that country, and that "in the nine months leading up to this weekend's presidential election, 132 politicians have been killed. That's according to Etellekt, a risk analysis and crisis management firm. The group's report, released Tuesday, found that 22 of Mexico's 32 states have seen a political assassination since campaigning began in September. Etellekt's tally found 48 of the victims were candidates. The rest included party workers." Much of that violence is linked, directly or indirectly, to the trafficking of drugs--as is true in Central America as well--and that situation is almost entirely a result of the huge demand in the U.S. for these illegal drugs. So, once again, it comes back to things happening in or by the U.S. that has created the current situation.

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