Root Causes of Illegal Migration from the Northern Triangle

Root Causes of Illegal Migration from the Northern Triangle


By Phil Waldron, CEO Mission UpReach

Photo cred: Orlando Estrada, AFP

On June 10th, 2021 the NY Post published an article saying this: 

The president of Guatemala says he places blame for the US’ border crisis on President Biden and the Democrats’ “lukewarm” rhetoric on illegal immigration — adding that he urged Vice President Kamala Harris during their meeting to impose harsher penalties on human smuggling. Guatemala President Giammattei’s remarks came as US Customs and Border Protection announced Wednesday that 180,034 migrants were encountered while trying to cross the border with Mexico in May. Insisting that the border was not facing a crisis, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in early March that the problems the agency faced should be blamed on the previous administration. The data, however, overwhelmingly shows that migrants were flooding the border because they believed Biden would welcome them with open arms.”

In April the Brookings Institute published an article entitled, “4 Things the Biden Administration Should Pay Attention to with the Border Crisis.”  In the article one of the authors states, “U.S. policy should promote economic growth in Central America, including infrastructure to catalyze rural economies and policies to promote entrepreneurship in cities. Only when there is opportunity in home communities will the U.S. see a reduction in cycles of migration.”

Both articles reflect some clarion truths that Mission UpReach has been talking about for years. We can do the best job possible of teaching young men and women about Jesus and helping them get their education, but if we cannot offer them access to economic opportunity it is often for naught. If the border appears to be “wide open,” they will always be drawn toward the US. In their defense, it seems logical to anyone here that is living in abject poverty that migrating north to the US, even though it is dangerous, expensive, and full of risk, is the best way to pay for a house and a car and other things that Americans consider basic necessities and yet are in short supply for the average person in Central America.

Anecdotally, we are currently experiencing a labor shortage here in Honduras. Take for instance, our construction projects at the Moses Project that involve finishing our chicken processing plant and building a rendering plant for the viscera and other organic waste that it produces. We need a crew of 35 men working to meet our deadlines, but the best we can do is half that. And our story is not unique. We are hearing the same thing throughout our community. 

The US Government needs to close the “wide open” border. It is a disastrous policy to follow for many reasons. If the US Government truly wants to help the poor and disenfranchised in Central America, they should follow the advice of people like Robert Lupton, author of Toxic Charity, who said, “I can’t stress it enough: business growth is key to moving the poverty needle.” 

We recognize that the crisis and its underlying causes is a complex and multi-faceted issue. However, people on the ground here and many, many experts in the US recognize that shutting down the open border, strengthening the migrant worker visa program, and utilizing multi-national nonprofits as in-country partners to stimulate economic growth in the Northern Triangle are three relatively straight forward policies that could be implemented to make an immediate and lasting improvement to the situation. At present, the efforts by our current Administration are focused on funneling aid to the Governments in the region. Unfortunately, precedent and statistics prove that Foreign Aid channeled through Governments of third world economies feed dependency and corruption. If you want to read the truth by informed experts, you should check out this extract written by Moosa Elayah at or even better get a copy of Dambisa Moyo’s book, Dead Aid.

I would encourage you to write your congressman or congresswoman and urge them to read these same articles requesting that they advocate for better laws and policies on immigration at our southern border. And don’t forget to pray for us as we work towards helping to grow the economy in our region through our sustainable efforts.  



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