The American Conservative, November 4, 2023
The appetite in Latin America and the Caribbean for the entry of migrants into the United States is insatiable. National leaders south of the border are now trumpeting the “right to migrate,” insisting that “destination countries” — that is, the U.S.— adopt even more extreme open-border policies to accommodate the region’s ceaseless pressure for economic migration. Since Latin America and the Caribbean have more than 80 million people in extreme poverty, even Biden officials must feel daunted.
The Biden administration has already allowed the admission of some 2–3 million border jumpers, mostly from these two vast zones. In addition, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has invented “legal” programs to permit the yearly arrival of at least another 360,000 from four countries in the region. Every year, “normal” chain migration and the diversity visa program bring in another 175,000 immigrants from the same region. On top of that, hundreds of thousands overstay their temporary visas each year, working on the black market with no fear of deportation.
Yet these numbers and extravagant open-border policies are evidently not enough. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) recently summoned national leaders from across Latin America and the Caribbean to a diplomatic gathering designed to coerce even more admissions out of the U.S.
Meeting in a “migration summit” in Palenque, Mexico, AMLO orchestrated the political chiefs from Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Ecuador, Panama, and Venezuela in delivering a sweeping call for more migration. They issued the “Palenque Declaration,” which proclaims that migrating across national borders is a basic human right. They called on “destination countries” to accommodate “irregular” migrants, offering them visas and work opportunities.
AMLO and his guests, several of whom are Marxists, are promoting an extreme and aggressive migration diplomacy. Their tactic is to expand radically old international law concepts, originally designed to protect refugees and asylum-seekers, into a universal human-rights agenda that allows all economic migrants to pack up and go wherever they choose. The Palenque summit’s pronouncements perfectly illustrate why a future conservative U.S. president must find allies in Europe and elsewhere to overturn the current radical multilateral order on migration.
Bedecked in guayabera shirts as they strolled among Mayan ruins in Palenque, the summiteers predictably found little time to examine their own profound complicity in the hemisphere’s migration chaos. The public record shows little deliberation about the shortcomings in their own governments that push migrants towards el Norte. Instead, they blamed uncontrollable “structural changes” and “climate change,” with only perfunctory reference to the endemic corruption and rule of law failures that contribute massively to their citizens’ persistent poverty and desperation to leave.
But the Palenque summiteers did have time to celebrate the caudillos from the broken-down Marxist states of Cuba and Venezuela, countries that are already sending many hundreds of thousands of migrants to the U.S. with millions more waiting to follow them. With an utter lack of irony, AMLO gave dictator Miguel Diaz Canel the usual warm abrazo, faulting el bloqueo yanqui, not the island’s corrupt and dysfunctional Marxist system, as the main cause for the ceaseless mass exodus of Cubans.
The masses fleeing Cuba never stop. Just in the last two years, some 300,000 have abandoned the island to enter the United States. Compare that number with Fidel Castro’s infamous Mariel boat lift in 1980, which brought “only” around 125,000 Cubans to the U.S., of whom 20,000 had criminal records and several thousand had been in psychiatric institutions. For the Havana-born DHS Secretary Mayorkas, facilitating the arrival of Cubans is one of his highest priorities. But the Palenque summiteers want even more.
Those concerned about Cuba’s future might wonder whether the hollowing out of human capital on the island will ever end. The Biden administration is clueless and appeases the Cuban dictatorship at every turn. Even our anti-communist Cuban-American friends must be asking themselves: Who is going to stay to resist Diaz Canal and perhaps one day rescue this forlorn country?
With its 28 million inhabitants, much more than twice as populous as Cuba, Venezuela is just getting started with its own diaspora strategy. Already some 500,000 Venezuelans have entered the U.S. in the past three years by crossing our southern border or overstaying visas. Millions more continue to leave, with vast numbers still seeking to enter the United States. By way of comparison, pre-Biden, the U.S. accepted yearly a total of around 2,000–3,000 legal Venezuelan immigrants.
At the Palenque summit, the strongman Nicolas Maduro gave a rambling statement, claiming that if Washington just removed economic pressure, “within a year” most of his countrymen would return home. In reality, of course, Maduro does not want any of these Venezuelans back; he wants them all to stay in el Norte, earn American dollars, and send them back as remittances. This is the economic model communists in Cuba have perfected; remittances account for almost 25 percent of the island’s GDP.
The flow of remittances to Venezuela is already the second largest source of foreign earnings after the country’s oil revenues. Given the number of Venezuelans that Maduro has already driven away, and the number that Biden has admitted, and with both categories slated to grow massively, the regime is on its way to a golden age of remittances, as the country continues to implode.
Central America also continues to bleed migrants who mainly see their economic future in el Norte. Most understand if they can just get there, the gringos will let them stay. Between October 2019 and March 2023, nationals from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua accounted for almost two million encounters at the southern border. Census data indicate that over 3.8 million Central Americans currently reside in the United States, and that number likely undercounts the real total.
Ecuador continues to increase its migrant numbers entering the United States. In the past year, U.S. border authorities encountered some 100,000 trying to cross our southern frontier. There are now over 480,000 Ecuadorians in el Norte, with at least half of those illegally present.
But all of these numbers serve only to whet appetites. Among the Palenque summiteers, Colombia’s Marxist president, Gustavo Petro, was perhaps the most foreboding. Petro said that el Norte, by which he meant both the United States and Europe, was just getting a foretaste of the massive immigration waves to come. With dramatic effect, Petro said the summit in Palenque rejected “building walls on the borders and concentration camps where—without any [migrant] ever having committed a crime—women, children and men, are imprisoned.” For Petro, to keep illegal migrants out is to put them in “concentration camps.”
This right-to-migrate propaganda is clearly out of control in the Western hemisphere. The Palenque summiteers are engaging in rhetorical blackmail, designed in part to keep the pressure on their American fellow travelers who run Biden’s appeasement-based immigration policy. But they are also messaging this dangerous nonsense to millions of their own low-information citizens who want to go north.
To these would-be migrants, the Palenque summiteers portray the United States as something other than a regular nation with the right to protect its borders. By their lights, el Norte is not really a country at all, but a mere geographic zone, a vast marketplace where the world’s ethnic groups are entitled to seek economic betterment. When they get in, some will work hard and send back remittances; others will find the gringo authorities, amazingly, give them money for just being there.
As the American Republic stumbles towards the 2024 presidential elections, it is over-the-top diplomatic roadshows like the circus at Palenque that remind us how urgently the United States needs enlightened political leadership that will proclaim that migration into our country is not a human right. America needs to broadcast that we will protect our borders, deport illegal foreigners, and make our own immigration laws. We have the right to be a normal sovereign nation and not the world’s doormat “destination country.”
Of course, the Biden administration is uniquely accountable for this unprecedented, out-of-control immigration train wreck through its own reckless messaging that borders mean nothing, that the U.S. offers endless “humane pathways,” and that we rarely deport anybody.
Meanwhile, diplomatic summits are fashionable. Radical Colombian President Petro has called for an immigration summit in Bogota “early next year” to continue beating the drums. Even more troubling is that the hapless White House yesterday hosted its own summit to “address the hemisphere’s growing immigration struggles.”
It is time to batten down the hatches and close the gates. Things are likely to get worse.