What Responsibility Do Hondurans Have for Their Own Plight?
If the caravaners could organize to come to the U.S., maybe they could have been an effective deterrent to the corruption back home
By now, almost everyone in the United States and abroad has heard about the caravan of Honduran nationals that has been making its way through Mexico, toward the U.S. border. As many have predicted, its numbers have begun to dwindle, from a high of nearly 1,500 to a mere 200 or so.
At the outset, caravaners stated their belief that they have an unfettered right to asylum in the United States. And many in Washington and the media began asking, “How could it hurt if we just let in this small group?”
But “how could it hurt?” and “how many should we let in?” were never the right questions to be asking in response to this incident. And before the open borders lobby launches its next exercise in immigration-related political theater, Americans should be seeking answers to the following questions:
To what extent are Honduran citizens responsible for solving their own political problems before they flee their country and look for refuge elsewhere?
If the group of individuals making up the caravan was able to organize itself and demand assistance from both the Mexican and American governments, why didn’t they begin by confronting the source of the problem, the Honduran government?
Honduras has a current population of about 9 million people. However, there are roughly 500,000 Hondurans living in the United States, and many thousands living abroad in other nations. Had those expatriates remained in their own country, might they have helped avert the constitutional crisis of 2009 or changed the outcome of the 2017 Honduran presidential election?
Those are all important questions. Because the events of 2009 and 2017 took Honduras from its former position as an island of political and economic stability in a turbulent Central America to its current status as yet another failed Latin American state.
Unfortunately, they are not questions that the ideologues in the open borders contingent want anyone to ask. They’d prefer to perpetuate the myth that anyone who wants to enter the United States has an unfettered right to do so.
They’d also like to lay the blame for all the ills of the world at the feet of the United States. Progressive internationalists consistently bemoan “harmful” American intervention in foreign countries and complain that we fail to treat the citizens of developing nations as equals.
But, if that is the case, then why are those who flee strife in their home countries always portrayed as brave and deserving victims? If we believe that Hondurans are mature political actors with some measure of control over their society’s fate, shouldn’t we be asking why they have failed to make their own country safe and productive? Refusing to seek answers to these questions is, to use the language of the progressive Left, to deprive Hondurans of agency, thereby demeaning them.
The notion that everyone who is dissatisfied with the political or economic situation in his or her home country can simply relocate to the United States is absurd. On the other hand, the idea that a self-ruling people should hold their government accountable for corruption, and see to preserving their own freedoms, is not. In fact, it is the fundamental concept underlying democratic government.
And it is an idea that should inform much more of our immigration policy. If we wish to formulate an immigration scheme that is successful over the long term, and contributes to global stability, we have to begin considering the wider diplomatic, economic, and political ramifications of the choices we make.
It just may be that we are killing other nations with kindness. By admitting their dissatisfied citizens to the United States in large numbers, we may simply be acting as the safety valve for dysfunctional regimes who can’t provide basic services to their own citizens — and are inadvertently prolonging the misery of untold millions.
Matt O’Brien is the former chief of the National Security Division within the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. He has also served as assistant chief counsel in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s New York District. He is currently director of research at the Federation for American Immigration Reform.