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Huffington Post Blames Border Crisis on Eisenhower, Reagan but Not Current Policy

According to the Huffington Post there are 8 "simple" reasons the U.S. is responsible for the current border crisis. Those reasons begin with a U.S. backed coup 1954 and end with a coup the U.S. had nothing to do with in 2009.

The piece is titled "Here's How The U.S. Sparked A Refugee Crisis On The Border, In 8 Simple Steps." The first simple step begins in 1954 when President Eisenhower and the CIA ran an operation to oust President Jacobo Árbenz. If 60 years ago seems like a bit far back to travel for a crisis which began in 2011, the other 7 steps attempt to make the connection.

Step 4 is President Reagan's (and Senator Biden's) war on drugs. This led to further incarceration for drug crimes and, in step 5, to drug wars and gang violence.

Step 6 is where America deports drug criminals back to Central America. The authors write, "After serving their sentences, many gang members were deported back to Central America, where they quickly became a dominant force." A few paragraphs later one of their sources disagrees saying, "The idea of deportees in and of themselves being the cause of the gang problem in Central America is erroneous."

Step 7 is the escalation of the drug war. In the 90s, the authors write, America broke up the Columbian cartels. Then in 2006 America and Mexico broke up Mexican cartels. This led to increased cartel problems in Central America, though the piece doesn't really quantify the problem in any way.

The final step, step 8, is where things get really slippery. Remember, this is a piece titled "How The U.S. Sparked A Refugee Crisis On The Border, In 8 Simple Steps." But step 8 is the 2009 coup in Honduras in which America played almost no role. 

The authors try to get around this problem by suggesting America is at fault for not doing enough. They write, "the American government balked at using the term 'coup' in this case, and made little effort to get Zelaya returned to power.

But according to the Post story the authors themselves linked there was a good reason for the official reticence to use the word "coup." The story reads, "Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the United States government was holding off on formally branding it a coup, which would trigger a cutoff of millions of dollars in aid to the impoverished Central American country."

Weeks later the U.S. did cut off non-humanitarian aid to Honduras. Why? According to the State Department at the time, it was an effort to pressure Honduras to accept a deal which would return Zelaya to limited power pending an election. So contrary to the authors claim, the U.S. did make an effort to get Zelaya returned to power.

Instead of applauding this move the authors instead pivot and find fault with the U.S. for cutting off "counter-narcotics" aid. They quote a report by the International Crisis Group which says, "The result was a ‘cocaine gold rush,’ as traffickers hurried to secure routes through the region."

The number of contradictions here is insurmountable. The U.S. is faulted for the drug war in step 4 and 7 and then, in step 8, for stopping "counter-narcotics assistance." We didn't do much for President Zelaya (except we actually did) and when we did act, that makes us responsible for all the countries' current violence. The authors say this all started with a coup we backed in 1954 (step 1) and conclude we're at fault for a coup we didn't back in 2009 (step 8).

The current crisis began in 2011. Violence in Honduras plays a role but is definitely not the sole factor. Remember, the number of kids arriving from Guatemala and El Salvador, where violence is much lower, is about equal to the number coming from Honduras. Backing up this point, a recently leaked ICE document contains an analyst's note which states, "While violence is one driver of UC migration, it is important to note that Belize has a higher murder rate than that of Guatemala; however the number of UC's from Belize at the US SWB is small (approximately 20 to date in FY14)."

Far more important than a coup that happened 60 years ago is the widespread perception that child immigrants who make it to the U.S. will be given "permisos" to remain in the country. That's why the Vice President and the President have each tried to correct that perception. It's why the U.S. pushed Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador to air a PR campaign on TV countering the idea. Pretending the current crisis has more to do with a coup in 1954 or drug policy in the 80s than actions taken by the current (and preceding) administration doesn't make a lot of sense.


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