As their economies fail, Latin American dictators send a new wave of migrants to the U.S.
By Arturo McFields
A new wave of immigration is knocking on the doors of the U.S., despite the reduction experienced this summer after the end of Title 42 and the new Biden immigration policy.
Detentions on the border with Mexico increased by 30 percent in July, from 99,545 to 130,000. This month, the figure could reach up to 170,000 encounters. Although it is true that border arrests seem to be a liver punch to the migration plan of the Biden administration, the problem is more complex than that. There is an engine that drives and encourages migration to the U.S.
The dictatorships of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela are playing a key role in the increase in the migratory flow. What happens in these three countries has a direct impact on the crisis at the border.
Last July, a new economic crisis broke out in Cuba. And its consequences — power blackouts, accelerated currency devaluation, food shortages and brutal repression — are just the right fuel for a rise in emigration to the U.S.
In this context, the Havana regime reopened the migratory valve — a strategy as old and as effective as the Mariel boatlift, which now brings new nuances and hemispheric partners.
In this new migration strategy, Cuba supplies the people, the dictatorship of Venezuela supplies the airline (CONVIASA), and the Marxist regime of Nicaragua supplies the free visa. In this way, thousands of migrants can begin a massive exodus to the southern border of the United States.
Why would they do it? Because of their economies. More migrants translates to more remittances. The communist model has been a resounding failure, but migration to the U.S. has been a great success. In Nicaragua, during the first six months of the year, the regime of Daniel Ortega has benefited from more than $2 billion in remittances and more than $5 billion will enter by the end of 2023.
The accelerated strategy implemented by Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua has caused devastating and visible effects in New York and Massachusetts, but in the short term it will bring more remittances to Havana, Caracas and Managua.
The dictatorships of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela have successfully created the false narrative that sanctions are driving migration. But in fact, repression, exclusion and illicit enrichment of the ruling elites in Managua, Havana and Caracas are the main causes of forced, desperate migration. Seven million Venezuelan exiles are the living proof of this man-made tragedy.
According to the White House, the situation in Nicaragua and Venezuela “continues to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.”
This year, the three dictatorships have received the president of Iran, Ebrahim Raisi, and the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov. Each and every one of them maintains close cooperation with China and diplomatic ties to North Korea.
In the coming months, the immigration issue will again become daunting, deserving of a comprehensive response. And as the above demonstrates, migration cannot be disconnected from national security and foreign policy.
Specific and clear attention must be paid to these three dictatorships, described as an unusual and extraordinary threat to security. To that end, President Joe Biden should establish a special undersecretariat to monitor these regimes in detail. An unusual problem requires an unusual response.
It would be relevant to consider an economic and commercial strategy to press for significant changes in Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. And of course, this would not be a good moment to remove sanctions in exchange for nothing.
It its critical to assess and even suspend the privileges of the dictatorships, which still enjoy the benefits from the international monetary system, the U.S. dollars, tourism and free trade with the most powerful nation of the planet.
The immigration issue is a symptom of a much larger problem that is still not being addressed. It is both urgent and possible to do something right now.
Arturo McFields is an exiled journalist, former Nicaraguan ambassador to the OAS, and former member of the Peace Corps of Norway.