The Root Cause of Immigration to the USA


Following the Biden Administration’s announcement of comprehensive immigration reform, which includes a clause allowing about 11 million illegal immigrants, who entered the country as children, to receive legal status, the U.S. southern border now faces an unprecedented inflow of individuals wishing to enter the country illegally. Their number grew steeply. In March 2021, it showed a 70-percent growth, compared to February of the same year, or 172,000 in absolute value. 

While the border officers are struggling to curb the inflow of new immigrants, the Biden administration announced they are going to deal with the root cause of immigration – adverse economic conditions, decreasing standards of living, and violence in the region, which currently supplies the majority of illegal immigrants to the U.S. – El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, also known as the Northern Triangle. 

Traditionally, the countries’ leaders have not been able nor willing to improve the conditions. The countries of the Northern Triangle have a long history of government corruption, crime, violence, and declining economy. In recent decades, the region has been facing another powerful enemy – climate change. As for economies heavily relying on agriculture, the global warming and recurring Category 5 hurricanes bring about devastating consequences that drive the majority of the population below the poverty level and push them to seek better opportunities elsewhere. 

For the same reason, the Northern Triangle nations are also one of the most dangerous areas in the world. Lack of economic opportunity pushes the population to join organized crime and to terrorize small businesses, causing migration of working-age individuals out of the region, which, in turn, has a negative impact on the economy, thus creating a vicious circle. Although the crime rate has somewhat declined recently, the gang involvement of the population, especially among the youth, remains high.  

The recent announcement of comprehensive immigration reform and possible obtaining of legal status by illegal immigrants who entered the U.S. as children, caused families with young children from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala to attempt to enter the U.S., and even parents to send their unaccompanied children to try their luck and enter the U.S. with the hope of obtaining status under the new reform, so they can later join them as members of their families. This recent immigration influx created an unprecedented immigration crisis on the southern border, with immigration detention centers reaching their full capacity with many more thousands of potential applicants waiting in Mexico for their chance to enter the U.S.


On the very first day of his presidency, Joe Biden set forward the intention to fight the root cause of illegal immigration to the U.S. from the region. Such plans are not brand new, however. President Barack Obama’s administration allocated $750 million for assisting the region in combating corruption and gang violence as early as in 2014. As a senior member of the team, Joe Biden was supervising the funds allocation. Despite bringing some positive results, the program was suspended during Donald Trump’s presidency, accusing the Northern Triangle countries’ leaders of symbolic cooperation, instead of full-fledged support. 

The Biden administration intends to spend some $4 billion to revive the program. The majority of the funds would be directed to assist the most vulnerable segments of the population, anti-corruption reforms, and building an economy not as heavily impacted by climate change. Apparently, the program will not bring immediate results but sure can help stabilize the region and create more opportunities for the local population. Ricardo Zuniga from the Biden administration was appointed a special envoy to the region and will supervise the program’s implementation.

Photo by frank mckenna


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