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Thursday, October 18

Millions of starving Afghans flee drought-stricken farms. But STAY IN PLACE has worked where it's been used

“It’s hard to put into numbers, but the humanitarian community agrees that the response could have been cheaper if large-scale migration could have been prevented.”

Afghan displaced persons' tent camp on outskirts of parched town

Photo: Stefanie Glinski/IRIN

The drought crisis has been building all this year in Afghanistan's farming regions, mainly in the north and west. By July the United Nations had estimated that at least 1.4 million Afghans would urgently need food aid in coming months. But by their own admission the UN greatly underestimated the scope of the crisis -- not really their fault given that the Afghan government had been slow to declare an emergency. (1)

On Monday, October 15 the UN announced that at least 3 million Afghans were in the emergency phase of the five-phase food security index, which is one phase away from famine. The organization is scrambling to pull together  international aid in efforts to get food by December to 2.5 million of the 3 million Afghans who are surviving on less than a meal a day -- the "less than" amounting to tea and bread.  

The drought was fueled by a La Nina weather cycle that caused record low snowfall in Afghanistan last winter, followed by high temperatures and up to 70 percent less rain in some areas, which meant water tables couldn't recharge, drying up many wells. (2) 

The rest has been a predictable pattern of dying livestock and destitute farming families heading to the nearest cities, where they set up flimsy tents and try to find work that isn't available, and wait for government help that so far has not been forthcoming. With winter closing in, the tents are no protection against freezing temperatures. 

More than 260,000 destitute, starving Afghans have already fled to tent encampments -- a displacement crisis now larger than the one caused by the government's war with the Taliban.   

Many of the displaced want to flee to Pakistan or Iran but the doors are closed; both countries, dealing with their own severe problems, have deported large numbers of Afghan refugees from earlier crises, and set up stringent entry requirements. The deportees have returned to no jobs and drought.

The familiar pattern has features unique to the 21st Century, and I will discuss them in due time, but because of these features the humanitarian disaster in Afghanistan is a triple disaster on top of the usual drought-driven one. So if Afghanistan's (legit) farming belt doesn't see significant precipitation soon, the drought-driven famine in the country from the late 1990s to 2002, which touched off a massive refugee crisis, will seem like small chips. 

Moreover, al Qaeda/Taliban will pick up many more of recruits. And cultivation of the country's technically illegal poppy crops, which can exist on little precipitation, will skyrocket all the more. (3,4) 

All that is on the way in Afghanistan if this winter sees measly snowfall and the spring brings little rain.

STAY IN PLACE

Against the nightmare scenario is an approach to aid that can stop much of humanity from going the way of Afghans. The approach is still so new that it doesn't yet have a name, beyond Stay in Place, and you won't find an article about it in Wikipedia -- although one needs to be written 'yesterday.'  

STAY IN PLACE is pretty much what it sounds like; the idea is to apply relatively cheap, simple methods to helping farmers in drought- and flood-prone regions stay on their farms rather than becoming internally displaced or fleeing to other countries. 

STAY IN PLACE is not a magic bullet, and in my view has to be combined with a modernized type of subsistence farming to be effective over the long-term in many regions. But SIP has allowed farmers to beat the odds where it's been applied. The approach has been used during Afghanistan's present drought crisis. So here I turn over the podium to the IRIN organization, which has a free website that provides the 'inside story' on mass emergencies around the world. 

Note that the report was filed before the UN's latest announcement, on October 15, about the fast-moving Afghan crisis, so some statistics cited in the report are already out-of-date.  

Also, please see IRIN's website for great photographs accompanying the report (taken by the reporter), one of which I've featured above.
Oasis amid the drought: Local water systems give Afghans a reason to stay home
By Stefanie Glinski, regular IRIN contributor
October 11, 2018
IRIN


The dusty, barren hills of western Afghanistan stretch far into the horizon. Here in Badghis Province, a severe drought has left barely any vegetation alive. But some villages in Abkamari District are an exception.

(ABKAMARI DISTRICT/Afghanistan) - Parts of the district are full of life – a green oasis with verdant vegetable gardens stretching between parched hillsides.

Although Abkamari has not been spared from a drought that has destroyed harvests, killed livestock, and forced 250,000 people from their homes across the country, here one simple solution has made a difference: New water systems and rehabilitated pumps have allowed farmers to grow food – and kept hundreds of local families from abandoning their homes in search of help.

While emergency aid is necessary for the most desperate, some NGOs worry it’s also pulling people away from their homes, creating new displacement and adding to the costs of what’s now a half-billion dollar humanitarian response in war-torn Afghanistan. Instead, they say, the broader aid sector could have mounted a drought response far earlier, and done more to prevent people from leaving in the first place.

The United Nations estimates that $116 million is needed to respond to the drought. This includes both emergency aid – such as food assistance totalling $14 million a month – and longer-term help. According to NGO World Vision, rehabilitating a water pump costs about $80, while a new purification system is priced at $58,000.

Haji Bismillah, a 45-year-old farmer, is one of the people who decided to stay along with his two wives and 15 children. In his sun-bleached traditional dress and a white cap, he proudly pulls weeds between the tomato plants in his vegetable garden – a patch of greenery surrounded by sparse hills.

“I’ve always been a farmer, but all of my rain-fed crops have died,” he said. “This plot has changed our lives.”

Aid groups and the Afghan government are struggling to keep pace with soaring humanitarian needs caused by the drought. An estimated 1.4 million people need help with water, food, and shelter, but funding shortfalls and conflict have prevented aid from reaching everyone who needs it. Sprawling tent camps of displaced rural families have emerged on the outskirts of urban centres like Qala-i-Naw, the provincial capital an hour’s drive from Bismillah’s home, and in Herat city to the west.

Bismillah decided to stay for a simple reason: Access to water in his remote village.


The cost of clean water

A five-minute walk uphill from Bismillah’s plot, World Vision set up a solar-powered water purification system for the 700 families living around the area. The system pumps salty groundwater from a deep well, which is then filtered into drinking water. Before the system was finished, the NGO trucked water to the village to make up for the shortages.

Dwain Hindriksen, operations director for World Vision in Afghanistan, said the organisation set up water systems to help people stay home rather than join the ranks of the displaced.

“We wanted to meet the needs in the communities and support people to get back on their feet,” he said. “If we can help people maintain their livelihoods, it will sustain them long after the emergency has passed.”

Since last November, the organisation has constructed two water purification systems, rehabilitated old pumps, and built solar-powered irrigation networks in the district.

In Abkamari’s Zingar village, where a water purification system has been in place for almost a year, none of the 300 families have left. In Bismillah’s village, Qapchiq, 100 families left before the system was installed, but 188 other households decided to stay once water was available, according to Saskidad, a community leader and member of the village-level water management committee.

The drought had already destroyed his crops, he said, but access to water has helped him survive.

“This water system is saving us time,” he said. “We used to walk up to six hours to find enough water. We’re also receiving food to make up for our lost harvests.”

NGOs operating in other parched areas of Afghanistan have found similar results. In Nimroz Province, along Afghanistan’s southwestern border with Iran, 30 percent of the population of the district of Chakhansoor had fled to packed Zaranj, the provincial capital, according to Relief International. Many migrants planned to head to Iran, even though the country is facing its own economic crisis and Afghans there are returning home – or being deported – in droves.

But Relief International is building new wells in Nimroz, giving some communities access to water. People in affected villages told NGO staffers they would stay if they had water – even though the drought had stripped farming communities of their livelihoods and worsened health conditions.


Preventing a crisis

Drought is a frequent concern in Badghis, as well as elsewhere in the country, and some aid groups say the government and the humanitarian sector could have lessened today’s emergency by responding far sooner. Last August, the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification, a multi-agency body that monitors food insecurity around the world, marked Badghis as an “emergency” – the fourth level on its five-point warning scale, just below “famine”.

This year, a July statement by 10 major NGOs working in Afghanistan called on the broader aid sector to view humanitarian assistance to displaced people as a “last resort”, and to invest in measures that would build livelihoods in the remote communities many Afghans are now leaving.

The statement urged “greater leadership” from the UN-dominated cluster system – the organisational structure used to coordinate the many humanitarian and development groups working in Afghanistan.

In a separate statement given to IRIN, the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief and Development, which represents 146 Afghan and international NGOs, said that OCHA, the UN’s humanitarian coordination arm, had “failed” in organising an effective response to the drought.

“We are now facing a drought situation which could have been mitigated with better coordination with government and other stakeholders,” the statement said, citing “weak relations among the humanitarian [and] development donors as well as [the] Afghan government”.

David Throp, the deputy head for OCHA in Afghanistan, said: “It’s hard to put into numbers, but the humanitarian community agrees that the response could have been cheaper if large-scale migration could have been prevented.”

Osman, an engineer at Afghanistan’s Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, said that the government did not officially declare a drought until April, delaying an earlier opportunity to fund a response. The UN says that more than 1.4 million people nationwide will need some form of emergency assistance due to the drought.

Osman, who uses one name, noted: “If it doesn’t rain this coming season, people will be facing a major catastrophe far beyond their ability to cope.”

☰ Read more: Numerous reasons behind migration [see website]


sg/il/js

[END REPORT]

See also IRIN's October 4 report
“If the water finishes, we will leave:” Drought is forcing hundreds of thousands of Afghans from their homes. Barren fields, rising debt, and desperate measures: What daily life looks like in the drought-stricken regions of Herat and Badghis

1) I've based my summary of the crisis on a number of news reports; see the following ones for more details.

BBC, October 17: Afghan drought 'displacing more people than Taliban conflict'

RT, October 15: UN warns 3mn Afghans are in ‘urgent’ need of food amid ‘worst drought in living memory’

AFP, October 11: Afghan farmers fleeing drought face more hardship in camps

PHYS.org, August 12: Farmers in war-torn Afghanistan hit by worst drought in decades

The Telegraph, July 22: Afghanistan faces worst drought in decades, as UN warns 1.4 million people need help

(2) From the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan, an explanation of what Afghanistan's climate is like

(3) For the latest on the allover conflict situation, listen to Long War Journal's October 15 report for the John Batchelor Show, "US now negotiating an exit with the Taliban and Al Qaeda." (Ten minutes.) 

(4)  Read the November 2017 Brookings report on skyrocketed poppy cultivation in Afghanistan. When last I checked Brookings is considered the world's #1 'think tank.' But I'm not sure whether they're correct in claiming that the booming poppy-growing in Afghanistan has had virtually no connection with the booming opioid prescription industry in the United States -- although I understand an official probe based on the question would not be welcomed by the pharmaceutical companies that make opioid pills. 

But aside from that caveat I found the report valuable, and it contains current information on Taliban 'taxation' schemes and legit businesses. Those Islamist fighters are making so much money it partly explains why they're hard to dislodge. 

The other part, as always, is Pakistan's regime and the longstanding unwillingness of several other regimes, notably British, Saudi, Chinese, and American ones, to cross Pakistan's generals in any significant way. As to whether the generals are getting a cut of Taliban profits -- another question that is Taboo.) 

*********

Tuesday, October 16

Shame on US Democrats for using Central America's poor against Republicans! Shame!


I've stayed outside the political fray in my series about the crisis in small-scale farming, a crisis that affects almost every nation including the United States. But last night I learned that America's Democratic political party is using the crisis in the worst-off Central American countries for its own ends. The Democrats are organizing 'migrant marches' from those countries as a battering ram against U.S. immigration laws and American border patrols along the U.S. southern border. 

The latest migrant march, launched just a few days ago, has  about 3,000 Hondurans marching across Guatemala's border in the effort to get into Mexico and from there into the United States. (See Reuters report, below.)

The political strategy behind the marches is an outrage. It weaponizes some of the most vulnerable people in Latin America, and does so in the name of humanitarianism.

The strategy, as applied to Central Americans, was launched during the Obama regime with President Obama's support. The strategy has carried over to fighting the Trump regime's close adherence to U.S. immigration laws, which is backed by the Republican majority in Congress. But the Honduran March of Migrants looks to me specially designed by Democratic operatives to throw yet another wrench at Republicans ahead of the November 6 congressional elections.   

In any case the funding for the marches, reportedly provided by Democratic-leaning American foundations and notably Soros ones, is a tragic misapplication of millions of dollars. See this May 2018 report "Reports: Soros funding border caravan invasion" and ones quoted by the report. 

Mr Soros' funding of cross-border migrations the world over is well known, but less known is that his agenda is hopelessly out of date.  A year or two ago I reported that big international humanitarian organizations have recognized that in the face of 'climate change,' overpopulated cities and galloping desertification the name of survival in this era is "Stay in Place." 

The World Bank and the United Nations have also come round to this way of thinking, as has the European Commission -- although the latter's idea of helping people stay in place boils down to transforming the world's downtrodden into model European Union bureaucrats. (See the EU-US experiment in Syria's Idlib province.)

I'm sorry to break the news to the EC and US Department of State, but the biggest challenge at this time isn't good governance; it's how small-scale farmers in poor, drought-ridden regions can manage to stay in place. The challenge is giving impetus to what I term the "third wave" in farming modernization. The third wave brings together scientists and engineers from across hundreds of disciplines in what is shaping up to be humankind's greatest knowledge-sharing project to date. 

The basic idea is to develop low-cost solutions to land- and water-use problems that small-scale farmers, even unschooled ones, can implement and maintain largely by themselves -- albeit with startup help from governments, international organizations, and technical advisers. Such help doesn't come cheap but considering the alternative to a few billion people staying in place, it's a bargain.

Right now the best way to help the poorest Central Americans is to teach them how to maintain their farmlands in the face of droughts and to produce enough food to feed themselves and their families. For this task the legions of lawyers, lobbyists, and social justice activists who work for the Democratic party and Mr Soros need not apply. 

This isn't to say there's not plenty of room for lawyers and activists and even lobbyists in this era; it's just that many of them need to revise their priorities. One way this can happen is if Mr Soros' charitable organizations and the Democratic party revise their priorities to fit with the 21st Century. 

None of the above gets Republicans off the hook. Right now the political landscape in the United States harks to the scene in "Jurassic Park" where the family is saved only because a dinosaur appeared in the hotel lobby and started fighting with the other dinosaur.  

Northbound migrant group doubles in size, enters Guatemala
By Jorge Cabrera
October 15, 2018
Reuters

Guatemalan border police confront Honduran caravan 

Photo: Jorge Cabrera/Reuters, October 15, 2018

AGUA CALIENTE, Guatemala (Reuters) - Up to 3,000 migrants crossed from Honduras into Guatemala on Monday on a trek northward, after a standoff with police in riot gear and warnings from Washington that migrants should not try to enter the United States illegally.

The crowd more than doubled in size from Saturday, when some 1,300 people set off from northern Honduras in what has been dubbed "March of the Migrant," an organizer said. The migrants plan to seek refugee status in Mexico or pass through to the United States.

Reuters could not independently verify the number of participants, but images showed a group carrying backpacks and clogging roads near the border, some waving the Honduran flag.


[Pundita note: Somehow I don't think waving the Honduran flag is the best idea when demanding refuge in the United States.]

The impoverished nations of Central America, from which thousands of migrants have fled in recent years, are under mounting pressure from U.S. President Donald Trump's administration to do more to curb mass migration.

"We are seriously concerned about the caravan of migrants traveling north from Honduras, with false promises of entering the United States by those who seek to exploit their compatriots," the U.S. Embassy in Honduras said in a statement on Sunday evening.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence last week called on presidents in the region to tackle the issue, saying Washington would be willing to help with economic development and investment in return.


 [Pundita note: AP reported "The [Honduran] caravan formed just one day after U.S. Vice President Mike Pence urged the presidents of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala to persuade their citizens to stay home."]

Guatemala said in a statement on Sunday that it did not promote or endorse "irregular migration."

Rows of Guatemalan police in black uniforms, some wearing helmets and shields, initially blocked migrants from reaching a customs booth, Reuters images showed. It was not clear how long the standoff lasted, but the group was ultimately able to cross, said march organizer Bartolo Fuentes, a former Honduran lawmaker.

A police official on site said all Central Americans could pass freely through the region as long as they complied with migration control.

"We're going to drop in on Donald Trump. He has to take us in," said Andrea Fernandez, 24, who left Honduras with a newborn baby, a 5-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son because she said she could not find work and feared for their safety.

Mexico's migration institute said in a statement on Monday that march participants would need to follow immigration rules to enter the country, without specifying the criteria.

"The law does not provide for any permission to enter the country without meeting the requirements, and then go on to a third country," the government agency said.

(Reporting by Jorge Cabrera; Additional reporting by Gustavo Palencia in Tegucigalpa; Writing by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Peter Cooney)

[END REPORT]

********

Sunday, October 14

Guatemala's farming crisis floods across US border in another wave of illegal immigration


The red flag went up three years ago. The International Business Times published an in-depth 'special' report in November 2015 headlined Guatemala's Vanishing Harvests. The biggest culprit? Climate change, of course. Solution? More meetings in European capitals about reducing carbon emissions. So if the worst offenders would just buy more carbon credits this will solve Guatemala's harvest problems. 

But during the past two years the flood of rural Guatemalan illegal immigrants into the United States was blamed on gang violence. This year U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan, after hearing many accounts from detained immigrants, began to suspect that hunger was a significant factor driving the mass exodus. So taking notebook in hand he personally went on a listening tour in Central America's Northern Triangle countries -- Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Here's the commissioner meeting with members of an agricultural cooperative in a hard-hit region of Guatemala; as you can see he really is listening:


PHOTO: DANIELE VOLPE/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL


His finding?

Food Insecurity, Not Violence, Driving Guatemala Exodus, Say US Officials
September 25, 2018
Nearshore Americas
Hunger and food insecurity are the driving force behind the recent exodus in Guatemala, say US officials, dismissing claims that a spike in gang violence is the key reason.
“The families appear to be fleeing a hunger crisis in Guatemala’s western highlands,” reported The Washington Post, citing officials at the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
Due to last year’s drought and a devastating foliar disease affecting coffee plants, Guatemala’s coffee farming is also in crisis, leaving thousands of people in rural areas without an income.
“Food insecurity, not violence, seems to be a key push factor informing the decision to travel from Guatemala, where we have seen the largest growth in the migration flow this year,” reported the Post quoting CBP Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan as saying.
[...]
“The decision made by a family from Central America to migrate to the United States is based on a range of regional factors, to include poverty and food insecurity,” he stated in a press release.
Two years ago, gang violence was the key reason behind emigration in Central America. However, murder rates have been decreased in recent years in Guatemala, according to Insight Crime.
Now the U.S. Department of State -- and we can presume the U.S. Republican Party, which is more or less supporting President Trump's decision to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico -- is taking note of Commissioner McAleenan's findings. 

But a Wall Street Journal report published yesterday  emphasized that the commissioner found factors in addition to hunger driving the Guatemalan diaspora. The report focused on the need for jobs, jobs, jobs, and job training in Guatemala. This harks to U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan's feat of managing to discuss the 2018 American Farm Bill without mentioning farming.

The closest the Journal came to discussing farming issues was to quote a source who asserted that discrimination against the country's indigenous communities was preventing them from getting access to farmland.  

What's their problem with farming? In my view it's the same problem they had with Thai King Bhumibol's 'New Theory' farming system. Examining too many specifics about the world's poorest farmers might take discussion near subsistence farming -- a Taboo topic in the Financial Community and mainstream press except for a grumpy soul at The Economist and a few weirdos at Thomson Reuters Foundation

Why Taboo? Once people start modernizing subsistence farming this could lead to workable subsistence 'economies' in the boonies. Then we might see entire subsistence nations rise up, then global trade would collapse. From there -- well, the whole world will look like a "Mad Max" movie. 

In short we're dealing with people who think much like Flat Earthers. Not too long ago, as the crow of time flies, one didn't dare propose in the West that the world wasn't flat. This was because, well, because the entire order of God's Universe would collapse if the Earth wasn't flat. 

So what to do? In the immortal words of David Ronfeldt, Onward. As I've noted in an earlier post there is a revolution brewing in farming, one driven by the third great wave in farming modernization, which is an integration and application of knowledge across many disciplines, and which is just getting underway. Can the third wave make enough progress fast enough to avert a collapse in civilization? That's a cliffhanger. Never a dull moment on this planet, that's for sure. 

There are issues other than outmoded methods of subsistence farming driving an exodus of rural peoples from Guatemala; one, which got no mention from the press reports I mentioned above nor from Commissioner McAleenan, is the globalized remittances industry -- another Taboo topic. But one sharp-eyed Wall Street Journal reader noted, after studying photos posted with the report, that several of the illegal immigrants to the USA being deported back to Guatemala were young men, healthy looking young men. 

Yes; if they can get a job in the USA no matter how menial, it pays in U.S. dollars, which the workers can then remit to hungry relatives back in Guatemala. But criticism of remittances became off-limits more than 15 years ago when remittance payments became an industry backed by China, the World Bank/IMF, and the most powerful Western governments. 

In theory remittances take the worst pressure off the world's poorest by providing them with money. The downside is that the remittances industry takes pressure off the world's most corrupt and inefficient governments to improve their behavior. This pressure-releaser has contributed to the infamous Emptying the Ocean With a Sieve model of improving government in the world's most troubled countries.

There are additional reasons driving the diaspora from the poorest regions of Guatemala. One of them has been a long running weather-caused drought, which the 2015 International Business Times report discusses (from the viewpoint of human-caused Climate Change). There is also coffee plant rust disease (Climate Change), which at least in 2015 was taking a big bite out of Guatemala's coffee export industry and thus throwing many workers out of a job.

Another reason, which IBT also addresses, is the large amount of farmland that's been taken over by cattle ranchers -- several of whom are members of illicit drug cartels. Those people have had no compunction about murdering Guatemalans who don't want to give up their farming plots.

To sum to this point, there's a mash-up of factors driving the diaspora -- the same mash-up that's been occurring in many regions of the world, not only in Central America. And yet the fact towering above others is that the world's poorest farmers, who comprise a big chunk of the world's population, are having a hard time feeding themselves from farming. 

The remedies offered by governments and development banks boil down to herding the worst-affected farmers into cities so maybe they can get a job in a factory then get educated and end up 'useful' members of modern society. This urbanizing approach to problem-solving has made bad situations worse and I think it's been the key driving factor in the illegal immigration crises that have hit Europe and the United States.  

The path to sanity is to recognize that a nation's strength, and indeed the strength of cities, depends on the strength of the nation's rural population. The way to strengthen the rurals is to shore up the farming system used by subsistence farmers and small-scale commercial farmers so they can feed themselves.

Below I've featured the entire Wall Street Journal report because it has much illuminating data and its viewpoint is instructive. I've included some comments on the report. These are helpful to understanding why many Americans are fed up with the onslaught of illegal immigration to the United States. 

They really don't care to drill down into the kind of issues IBT and this post discuss.  They just want the flood of illegal immigration stopped by any means necessary -- a flood they consider more an invasion than migrations. And they do not want to hear that the United States was built by immigrants -- not this way it wasn't built would be the retort. Nor do they want statistics waved at them 'proving' that illegal immigrants carry their share of the tax burden.   

I think most of the commenters are among the voters who put Donald Trump in the White House. And they most certainly have their counterparts, in ever-growing numbers, in several EU countries.

And I think the commenters are on one side of a brewing 'New American Civil War' that John Batchelor and Michael Vlahos have routinely discussed all this past year from an exhaustive number of angles. (Recently several in the chattering class have taken up the same theme.) Here's the audio link to the latest Batchelor-Vlahos discussion on the John Batchelor Show, which took place October 12.   

As Migration From Guatemala Surges, U.S. Officials Seek Answers
By Alicia A. Caldwell
October 13, 2018
The Wall Street Journal

Several countries in the region "are really struggling to feed their people," says Customs and Border Protection commissioner

QUETZALTENANGO, Guatemala -- These rugged rural highlands bordering the Pacific Ocean have become a prime source for the skyrocketing number of immigrant families crossing the U.S. border illegally and asking for asylum.

Migrant families from Guatemala seeking asylum in the U.S. have surged past those from neighboring El Salvador and Honduras. More than 42,000 Guatemalans traveling as families were arrested at the U.S. border from last September through August, up 71% from the same period a year ago, according to federal government data.

The reasons aren’t clear. Guatemala hasn’t recently seen an upswing in violence, poverty hasn’t worsened and the national political situation hasn’t changed.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan went to the area seeking to understand why so many Guatemalans are heading north. Before his trip, he suspected hunger to be the leading cause.

Several countries in the region “are really struggling to feed their people,” Mr. McAleenan said in an interview.

Understanding why migrants leave their home countries could help government authorities develop programs to deter them and ease the continuing family migration crisis at the southern U.S. border.

As of August, more than 90,000 immigrants traveling as families had been arrested at the border over the past 11 months, up 27%. That figure will likely reach about 105,000 by September, the end of the federal fiscal year, according to a person familiar with the government’s border arrest data. The prior high for a full fiscal year was 77,000.


The record number of asylum-seeking families has overwhelmed border agents and immigration authorities. Border Patrol facilities are crowded with newly arrived families, bed space at family detention centers in Texas is at a premium and immigration court backlogs are growing.

Authorities suggested there is little more they can do from the U.S. side of the border to deter people from coming into the country illegally. Attempts to increase deterrence—including the Trump administration’s controversial family separation policy that was abandoned in June—haven’t been effective in slowing the influx of families.

Unrelenting violence in the region was widely accepted as having sparked the first wave of roughly 70,000 immigrant families, and nearly as many unaccompanied children, in 2014.

But as the flows have fluctuated in recent years, the causes have become more elusive.


[Chart - numbers of family units stopped at the U.S. border]

Mr. McAleenan’s September visit included stops at U.S. government-funded or supported projects to help improve local economies with job-training programs. Government estimates of the Guatemalan economy suggest that about 150,000 to 170,000 people enter the workforce annually, while roughly 35,000 to 40,000 jobs are created.

“There was a consistent focus on the need to create jobs. These gaps are massive,” Mr. McAleenan said.

Local indigenous leaders and nongovernmental aid agencies in Guatemala paint a complicated picture of the situation in Quetzaltenango, home to many of the new migrants.

The Guatemalan government isn’t able to do enough to “offer the right conditions to stay,” according to Dora Alonzo Quijvik, a co-founder of the Guatemalan Parliament for Youth and Adolescence. Those conditions, she said, included providing indigenous communities access to education and protections from gangs and drug traffickers that use the country as a transit point.

Lorena Lopez Mejia, who works with the nongovernment agency Organismo Naleb in Guatemala’s indigenous communities, said malnutrition is widespread and land or crops is inaccessible.



“If we can’t have access to land, we can’t talk about food access, let alone (food) security,” Ms. Lopez said.

Although official data shows no increase in violence in Guatemala in recent years, it is still a reason some newly arrived immigrants cite for leaving.

“Many of our Guatemalan clients are indigenous Mayans who have faced continuous systemic discrimination and oppression that they are now fleeing,” said Patricia Ortiz, a program director at the Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project at the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

Anita Isaacs, a political science professor and Central American migration expert at Haverford College in Pennsylvania, said a persistent drought and hunger were likely contributors to the high number of Guatemalans leaving the country for the U.S. in the past year. But political unrest and concerns about the future of a U.N.-backed anti-graft agency that has helped to keep crime and corruption in check play a growing role as well, she added.

During visits to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, Mr. McAleenan heard about multiple efforts to improve security, add jobs and encourage more people to stay in their home countries.

But there were also indications that government officials here aren’t discouraging their citizens from making the illegal and often dangerous trip north.

“No-go” campaigns are ineffective, several officials told Mr. McAleenan. One official said people have a right to migrate and thanked Mr. McAleenan for the opportunities the U.S. has provided.

As he finished his trip, Mr. McAleenan said he hadn’t heard the “clarion bell” which he had anticipated. Food insecurity turned out to be one element in a complex set of reasons why so many Guatemalans have been coming to the U.S. illegally, he said. He was also frustrated that so many would-be migrants know the risks of the trip to the U.S. but chose to come anyway.

“This is not an acceptable situation,” Mr. McAleenan said.

[END REPORT]

Below are some remarks on the report from the WSJ comment section. 
I didn't cherry-pick the remarks; I went down the list omitting a few mostly one-liners. I also omitted names of the commenters except one -- Jo McInerney, who got off a zinger; it's the last comment I posted. I saw it and said, "Okay, that's enough to convey the picture."

I note that the remarks do not fit the caricature that Hillary Clinton painted of American 'Deplorables.' These are educated people, intelligent people. 

Here we go:  


STOP THEM ALL PRIOR TO ENTERING THE U.S.

If they don't speak English, can't prove vaccinations, have no resources to be self-sufficient, OR can't prove identity with confirmed U.S. vetting; turn them away prior to entry.

The U. S. can't afford to be the dumping ground for all the nations south of our borders who can't control their population explosion.

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On this article, Jeff Burke identified Sacramento Dems as a magnet for illegals, which I agree-- As I understand it--Sanctuary cities overall are the biggest magnet for illegals the world over. Close to 600 cities safeguard illegals--- A Sanctuary city in the USA is a Federal Crime. Just get into the country - that's all anyone has to do----Try this is any country and you will be prosecuted and the officials safeguarding will face prison..

Where is our Attorney General--of course if we did have one- the 9th District Court supersedes our Constitution---This problem must be addressed.

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"Understanding why migrants leave their home countries could help government authorities develop programs to deter them and ease the continuing family migration crisis at the southern U.S. border."

It's not a secret... serious pressure on the land, high birth rate, terrible inequities in wealth distribution, high criminality, polarization fed by Evangelicals and racial discrimination. For many year the USG has worked in the interests of the landed wealthy and didn't do enough after the peace agreement.
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A real magnet is the socialist gov in Sacramento, who has created every possible program to attract illegals: Driver licenses for illegals, indirect programs for illegals like free housing for illegal students on UCS and UC campuses, and in-your-face programs like paying for illegal immigrant defense attorneys.

Scum like Kevin DeLeon, Jerry Brown, Kamala Harris, and Libby Schaaf should be prosecuted for breaking their oath to the American People and treated as traitors.

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Why don't you mention the farmers and ranchers who give illegals jobs? Half of farm workers are illegals. The construction, hospitality, and food service industries are highly dependent on illegal labor. So, who's the real scum?

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The number one problem around much of the world that is poor, is that they also have more births than they have resources for. Since however, they are mostly Catholic in Mexico, Central, and South America, it isn't like they would even use free birth control given to the women in their own countries, to alleviate their situation a lot.
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The article really doesn't discuss the impact of the so-called corruption commission that was imposed on them by the UN. It has served to promote instability and undermine what few institutions there are. It is little more than a front for the groups that hold power in Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba to try to destabilize the government. 

What the country needs is the ability to develop its institutions rather than have them undermined by an unelected and unaccountable organization with no oversight or clearly defined outcomes. We have been in Guatemala for most of the past year and the people are friendly, honest and hard-working. They deserve better than what the UN has set off on them.

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In a recent study by UC Berkeley's School of Agriculture, it was discovered that[U.S. Democratic Party] farmers actually hire illegal aliens to work on their farms -- and a similar study by UCLA discovered that liberals in the hollywood regime living in Beverly Hills, Bel Air and Brentwood also hire illegal aliens as nannies and as pool cleaners and as yard workers and …

UC Berkeley and UCLA tried to bury these facts, but a few die-hard right wing students at the schools revealed the data and the reports to an uncooperative MSM, which has refused to publish a word of it.
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We know what the answers are: See Hungary, Singapore, Israel, Australia. For example, the Australians actively push back would be illegal immigrants further into the seas, those that do set foot in Australia are exiled to offshore detainment. Singapore jails, canes and deports illegals, in that order. Hungary built not one border fence but double fences, heavily enforced with armed guards. Israel has shot hundreds of would be security fence intruders (most survive) and thrown in tear gas too. The U.S. had to get tough or get overrun; so far we are getting overrun. Political will is needed, not new "answers". Trump 2020 would help.
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The article is all about families migrating to the US from Guatemala - but the photos tell another story. The leading photo shows a stream of young men leaving the plane after being deported. A second photo also shows deported migrants - about ten women in the front row, and 40 young men in the subsequent rows. This is not about desperate families. This is about ambitious men, eager to better themselves. And the reason why is not complex. It's simple - it's easier to get into the US and get lucky than to stay in Guatemala with no prospects. The US is the drug of choice. This is no family problem. It's young men eager to try their luck in the US.

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Is there any more salient reason for a physical barrier than 100,000 families crossing illegally? Family heads have been counseled by traffickers to say 4 things at their first interview. "I am fleeing gang violence. I fear for my family's life. The gangs want my son. They say they will kill us if he doesn't join them."

Reports of that situation would be evident were it rampant. The conflict in El Salvador was widely reported. The conflict in Guatemala? No, these are just poor families who've been told what to say at their interview.

#BuildTheWall

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Agree. People emigrate to the US from countries such as Guatemala and Honduras for economics, job opportunity and family reunification but of course when they near the border it's becomes threat of death. Example: The International Organization for Migration 2016 Survey on International Migration of Guatemalans and Remittances of both remittance recipient families and returnees. 

The report found the leading reasons why returnees migrated to the US were economic (64.1%), family reunification (9.1 %), violence (3.3 %), and because of sexual diversity discrimination. The main causes why surveyed people would migrate during the next 12 months were for employment (31 %) or economic reasons (24.2 %). Other motivations were family reunification (18.6 %), because of discrimination based on their sexual identity (2.4 %), insecurity (1.7%), problems with the gangs or threats (1.2 %), and violence (0.5 %).

https://www.iom.int/news/guatemala-remittances-97-percent-usa-iom-study

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Likewise Hondurans: How do we know this? People in Honduras asked. A survey was conducted February 12-22, 2018 by the Reflection, Research, and Communication Team (ERIC-SJ as it is known in Spanish) regarding public perceptions of Honduras' social, political, and economic situation in 2017.

Table 91: Those who said a family member had emigrated in the last four years were then asked if the reasons were because of violence and insecurity or to find employment and opportunity. Only 11.3% said because of violence, 82.9% said for work and opportunity.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1AapV6tzOCCNu942KmXFfCMwnNDjqqvIq/view

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Colonialism is still a four-letter word apparently. What can we do, to bring productivity and prosperity to these failed countries, who's economic systems prevent them from even feeding their own people?

how desperate must people be to leave their homelands, for a country with different customers and languages. Yes, America is still the promised-land for many. But wouldn't people be happier staying in their own homeland if they could? Wouldn't you?

We have a responsibility to plow through the left-wing socialism and colonialism nonsense, and engage in these countries to help them develop modern democratic capitalism. It's the right thing to do. It's not about money. It's about teaching and institutional reform.

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If we do that, and third world countries develop societies and economies that provide incentives for their citizens to stay home and prosper, where are the elites going to find the cheap labor on which their luxury depends?

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The graph from the US Customs website (below) shows apprehensions of illegals at the border by year.

There is one, and only one year that is different from the others. It is the orange line representing FY17.

Do you see the enormous dip in that line?

That was people thinking we'd actually start enforcing the law after the election. Now, we're back to normal.

https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/stats/sw-border-migration

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Actually, the graph shows illegal entries have declined and stayed much lower in 2017.

Still room for improvement, sure.

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But the blue line for 2018 shows apprehensions of illegals is back up to that of previous years. After Trump became president following his talk of enforcing immigration laws illegal border crossings dropped. But now after a 1 1/2 of all attempts to end sanctuary cities, DACA, chain migration, birth-right-citizenship, make E-verify mandatory or significantly increase deportations from the interior have been blocked by Democrat politicians or activist federal court judges the invasion has returned.

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Don't look for this problem to be solved anytime soon. The globalist elite look at labor the same way they look at any other resource, as something to be obtained at the lowest cost possible. If the problems in Guatemala that drive emigration are solved, a new s----ole country will be found to be a cheap labor mine and the process and problems will move there.

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Unless the U.S. refuses entry to all refugees they will keep coming. Not sure America is willing to take this step.

When the hope of living is America is worth more leaving one's country and everything behind and then make a dangerous journey then they will keep coming.

We will have refugee camps along our border and we will either let them die or provide aid. The encampment themselves will create a big problem as they grow. Are we going to prevent charities from providing them aid so they will die?

Another big complication is we have many workers who live in Mexico and work in the U.S. each day. The refugee situation will make this even more difficult to control.

If you read the article the solution is to make it worthwhile for people to stay in their country than try to enter the U.S.

To all those who think the simplistic solution is to build a wall - reread the article. Refugees will continue to come.

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If our national existence is threatened, the President can then act. He wold have to suspend Posse Comitatus under an emergency such as 'continuity of government' Executive Directive 51. He could then seal the areas between the Ports of Entry with federal troops.

Then recall our ambassador, close the ports of entry, and give Mexico an ultimatum. Thier military has the capability to interdict the transit of hundreds of thousands of people from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. They could not transit the one thousand miles from Mexico's southern border - particularly the last three hundred miles of hot desert and few roads - to Texas, NM, AZ without logistics and through the Mexican army.

That should compel our Congress to address the crisis with Immigration and border enforcement reform.

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They need to come through the front door. So long as we give them a wink and an nod from the employer side, and the Left sees voters, the Congress is under insufficient pressure to address the problem.

Bottom line - there are now 7.6 billion the planet. It is over-populated. About 4 billion - due to security, lack of food, oppression, war, genocide, or for economic reasons . . . are going to rush the border between the ports of entry.

When the pressure to get in far exceeds the political will to regulate/control the influx, like sea water in a leaking submarine the ocean continues to rush in until the pressure equalizes. And that translates to a meeting of those items that are causing the pressure imbalance - security, food, infrastructure - the quality of life. Can this country sustainably support 1.5 billion?

We will be overwhelmed if we do not collectively address this via our ELECTED representatives.

Get control of the borders or we join the majority.

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[...]

If Guatemala is really that bad, four other countries are obligated to take them in. Nowhere is the US "on the way" to any of those four countries.

I'd posit that they are not refugees fleeing from something, but running to something.

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Not surprisingly the brilliant court decision interpreting the Flores Settlement to include not only unaccompanied alien children but accompanied children attempting to illegally cross the border was decided in California's US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. This produced the situation where you either release the adults with the children with an order to later appear at their immigration hearing - many disappearing into the interior of the country never to be seen by the courts again- or separate the children from the adults.

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https://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2016/07/06/15-56434.pdf

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Like much of MSM WSJ calls the Zero Tolerance Policy Trump initiated in early May a "Family Separation Policy". Between FY 2016 and February 2018 107,000 unaccompanied children and most of more than 167,000 aliens in family units who were apprehended were released into the interior of the United States. Obama as well as Trump for the first 14-15 months of his administration chose to release most of the families together. 

However apprehensions by CBP were up over 200% in March and April this year compared to 2017. Last year alone there were 40,000 removal orders issued in absentia because the asylum seekers didn’t show up for their hearings. They were not respecting the conditions of their release and were legitimate flight risk so Trump decided to detain the adults until their case was settled. The Flores Settlement Agreement states you cannot detain the children for extended periods so they were separated.

https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/stats/sw-border-migration

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Guatemala is a failed state. There is no guarantee of security, property rights, access to education, reasonable infrastructure on a national scale or much else that a government should provide to make its people successful. The Plan B for all these countries is to send people north to take some of the pressure off their government and allow those in power to loot the country as best they may.

There are no easy solutions but whatever solutions arise need to be implemented in-country, not by providing shelter and feeding illegal immigrants in the US. Programs can't be dollops of dollars or uncontrolled spending sprees; real investments in infrastructure projects, education and the guarantee of civil rights would be a big step forward. Privatization of things like roads, water supply and other areas can provide jobs, reliable income for the government and quality infrastructure. Efficient tax collection would also help.

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I've spent a lot of time in the Quetzaltenago area and believe me it has nothing to do with Soros, or Hillary or your latest Democratic straw man. Indigenous people all know friends and family that have been successful in the USA - they send remittances back that keep a lot of families solvent. On the internet they see pictures of a better life up here so they come. A lot of them have a naive view of the dangers of transiting Mexico and crossing the border, "la linea". Guatemalans are hard workers. They take on tough construction jobs many Mexicans up here are unwilling to do. They are willing to work outdoors in very difficult conditions - roofing in the the summer in 100 degree temperatures.

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[...]

In 2006, ICE raided six JBS Swift plants--in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Texas, Colorado and Utah-- and arrested some 1300 illegal immigrant workers. In addition to those arrested the companies lost many others who worked on a different shift, but who did not report for work because they feared federal agents would pick them up. All six plants resumed work on the day of the raids, but at a slower pace.

To recruit replacement workers Swift had a campaign to recruit American citizens, green card holders, and refugees. It raised wages, provided bonuses to new workers, and paid relocation expenses. All the Swift plants were able to resume full production within four or five months. 

As the Swift workers later said, these are jobs Americans are willing to do--if given decent wages and conditions. Between 1980 & 2007 wages in the in meat packing industry, adjusted for inflation, dropped by a 45 percent - the benefits of mass uncontrolled immigration.

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Also agree it's a mistake for the US to try to compete globally by importing our own population of cheap compliant workers. It only delays technological innovation and moves us toward becoming a third world country. Use automation - not bodies- to perform back-breaking menial work. Example: In the 1960s with the imminent end of the Bracero Program and an expected shortage of laborers the tomato harvester was perfected and automated picking went from about 1% of Californian tomatoes in 1963 to 95% in 1968. [Pundita's emphasis]

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Our government's own statistics suggest that they pay and indirectly generate much more in taxes than they receive in benefits,

https://www.politifact.com/punditfact/statements/2016/oct/02/maria-teresa-kumar/how-much-do-undocumented-immigrants-pay-taxes/

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... this note is part of the document you refer to ;

For the annual Trustees Reports, the President’s Budget, and other documents, OCACT projects the numbers of unauthorized immigrants residing in the United States, their earnings, and the implications of these earnings on Social Security financing. Our projections assume that unauthorized residents work at about the same rate as the rest of the population by age and sex, but earnings are less likely to be reported as taxable and even less likely to be credited for future benefit entitlement. Thus, our projections suggest that the presence of unauthorized workers in the United States has, on average, a positive effect on the financial status of the Social Security program. For the year 2010,1 we estimate that the excess of tax revenue paid to the Trust Funds over benefits paid from these funds based on earnings of unauthorized workers is about $12 billion

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Absolutely FALSE. These illegals do not pay taxes as almost all are in the underground economy and pay NO taxes.

They also are still eligible for most of the local government sponsored programs such a s Public Education and Healthcare. If they bring kids they go to the local public schools which is normally the largest local expenditure and if they get sick they can go to any emergency room and get FREE healthcare as they simply don't pay any bills.

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Nonsense.

First most Federal taxes paid by illegals are returned after filing because on paper they fall below the minimum threshold for income.

Second, analyses provided by illegal immigrant advocates such as Maria Teresa Kumar, CEO and president of Voto Latino, almost always exclude benefits provided to the over 4 million US-born birth-right citizens of illegal immigrant households, instead adding these costs to US citizen provided benefits to make a comparison.

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Even if this were true, a nation is more than an economy.

Also, it was just reported that anchor baby births alone - of which there are 297,000 every year in the US - cost about $2.35 billion a year. That's just hospital birthing stays!

https://cis.org/Report/Births-Legal-and-Illegal-Immigrants-US

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The article you linked specified that about 3.1 million out of 11 million undocumented immigrants paid into social security. Half of the amount in the article headline is the employers matching contribution.

Further in the article it says there is a deficit of $14,387 per family in services received over what had been paid in compared to benefits received.

What was rated true by politifact was a specific thing....that some undocumented immigrants had social security withheld from their paychecks.

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Did you miss this part of the article? They are only looking at immigrants who pay taxes.

“According to the Social Security Administration, there were nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States in January 2009. Factoring out kids, nonworking immigrants and those working in the underground economy and not paying taxes, the Social Security Administration estimated about 3.1 million unauthorized immigrants who worked and paid Social Security taxes in 2010.“

New studies are showing the number of undocumented immigrants in this country is closer to 22 million. When looking at the cost to taxpayers, factor in benefits that the kids, the non working immigrants and those working in the underground economy use, and then see how the numbers tally up. Dont forget to add in the cost to educate each child per year, around 10k plus depending on the state, state benefits, medical costs, etc.

Also if you go on to read more of the article, of the 12 billion in taxes claimed to be paid by undocumented immigrants, 6 billion of that is actually paid by the employer. They then cite the Heritage group study , which states that half of undocumented immigrants pay no taxes, while the other half averages around 10k a year in tax payments, but receives around 24k a year in benefits.

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Undocumented immigrants are better taken care of than our own citizens. They come to free library resources daily which are supported by our taxes, they come for homework help with tutors there free and provided, they come for free special remedial classes (provided), for care of elementary kids who are parked in the children's section of the tax payers dollars supported libraries. More and more English/Spanish classes have to be taught at local schools, paid for by our taxes. None of these above costs are figured into the costs of subsidizing illegal immigration. All of these benefits are in addition to: Free medical at urgent care, food stamps, low income housing, lawyer subsidies, etc. Not only are the costs listed above not figured into the costs of illegal immigration; they are not discussed in studies by academics because they are not aware of them.

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Hard to believe this article fails to point out the significant role professional, human smugglers play in this surge of illegals coming from Guatemala and Central America. These smugglers, for a fee, of course, supply people with fake documents and visas to traverse Mexico, lie to them that families with children will not be deported, etc. The EU had the same problem with the professional human traffickers facilitating an invasion of ME refugees until they finally wised up and started cracking down on them. The result? The massive flow slowed to a trickle. The US needs to apply similar pressure on Mexico, Guatemala, et al, to arrest these culprits—start by withholding foreign aid or banning targeted exports. This isn’t rocket science...although for WSJ reporters, it may be.

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Jo McInerney:

I'm always curious when illegals are caught that they tell the Border Patrol they paid the coyote up to $8,000.00. The cost of living in their countries is probably in the $5.00 a day range. If they are persistent enough to raise all that money, then they should be persistent enough to change their country's government and fight the cartels. It seems they never have a total revolution, they just flee and we pay the price.
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