Americans And Other Groups
The US experienced an influx of Central American immigrants during the 1980s. This migration encompassed a wide range of complex issues. This is because a combination of factors contributed to this migration. The migration resulted from both internal and external factors. In addition, the factors that led to the Central American migration were either political or economic. Internal factors also referred to as push factors, are factors that occurred in Central American countries that forced citizens to migrate to the US. While the pull factors are the external factors mainly in the US that attracted the Central American immigrants. It is sometimes difficult to distinguish between pull and push factors that contributed to this migration because both these factors contributed equally to the migration.
According to Segura (61), the major factor that led to the Central American migration was the crisis that ensued in the region in the late 1970s and early 1980s. This crisis made the Central America region become a diplomatic hot spot. This crisis occurred in most Central American countries such as Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. The Major cause of the Central America Revolution was the difference in the political ideology to adopt. The crisis, therefore, resulted because of fighting between rebel groups that supported either capitalism or communism. In essence, this crisis was a microcosm of the cold war. In Nicaragua, the revolution pitted the FSLN against the Contras. The Contras was a military movement backed by the US which waged a war against the communist-backed FLSN. This war developed in the 1980s resulting in the loss of lives of many Nicaraguans and the migration of many from the country. Some Nicaraguans, therefore, migrated to the US.
The revolution in El Salvador was between the government military movement and the FMLN. This fighting resulted in violence and instability in the country. Approximately 75,000 people died while thousands fled the country during this civil war. In Guatemala, the civil war began in 1960 and escalated during the 1970s. This war resulted from the Panzo’s massacre in 1978. Just as in El Salvador and in Nicaragua, this war resulted in violence and instability. As a result, the majority of Guatemalans migrated to other stable countries like Panama, Costa Rica, and the US. The civil war in Central America caused millions of immigrants to move to other countries including the US to avoid the violence in their countries (Segura, 72),
Economic difficulties significantly contributed to the Central American immigration. The economic crisis in Central America worsened because of the civil war. Most Central American countries depended on agriculture. The majority of these countries practiced mixed farming. The civil war caused instability and as a result, production of crops such as coffee, sugar, and cotton could not occur. Many farmers became unemployed because of the violence in the region. An acute food shortage resulted. This is because the violence destroyed agricultural products on the farms. The disruption of the transport sector prevented the few food products from being transported to markets. Poverty levels in the region soared because many people depended on agriculture which suffered devastating destructions due to the civil war. As a result, many Central Americans migrated to other countries to look for employment opportunities and to alleviate the poverty in their countries. Some immigrants ended up in the US and Canada.
Another major cause of the Central American migration was the insecurity in the region. Living in Central American countries became too risky due to the incessant military fighting in the region. The rebels and insurgents recruited many males forcefully into their armies. The civil groups tortured and maimed many people in the region. The rebel groups raped females and young girls. Many families became separated because children and other family members were kidnapped. The civil war claimed the lives of thousands in the region. This made many professionals and laborers to flee to safe countries. However, fleeing was equally dangerous as the insurgents attacked the immigrants. Many immigrants moved to safer countries such as Costa Rica, Canada, and to the US mainly through Mexico.
Millions of Central American immigrants mostly Salvadorians and Guatemalans moved to the US between 1980 and 1990. However, these immigrants encountered a lot of challenges. The major challenge these immigrants experienced was that many were denied political asylum by Reagan’s administration. As a result, many Central American immigrants in the US lived illegally and were therefore put in detention camps. The US government deported many immigrants even before applying for legal asylum status. The illegal status of these immigrants made it impossible to get employment opportunities. This forced many of them to do odd and low-paying manual jobs. The immigrants lived in poor conditions and in abject poverty in major cities like Los Angeles (Segura, 91). Many immigrants could not speak English and had limited education levels. This further dampened any chances of these immigrants getting employed in the US. Limited English communication skills also caused many innocent immigrants to be jailed.
The Central immigrants responded to these challenges by forming their lobbying groups to force the government to grant them protection. Civil, religious, and human rights groups demonstrated in order to force the US government to protect the Central American immigrants from the civil war. The US government denied many immigrants protection as a way to fight the communist groups and governments in Central America. The US government developed hard-line stands against granting these immigrants asylum. The Reagan administration considered these immigrants as a threat to national security. The immigrants’ lobby groups together with other groups helped in persuading the government to change its hard-line stand. As a result, the government granted temporary protection to many Central American immigrants from El Salvador, and Nicaragua(Segura, 89).
Religious movements responded to the challenges the immigrants faced by forming the Sanctuary Movement. This movement consisted of various religious denominations. This movement opposed the US government’s treatment of the refugees. The Sanctuary movement offered humanitarian assistance to the refugees. In addition, this movement smuggled immigrants across the borders into the country. They provided food, employment opportunities, and medical assistance to these immigrants.
The Central American immigration resulted in an influx of Central American immigrants in the US which continued to date. There were 2.9 million Central American immigrants in the US in 2009. According to Segura (106), the majority of these immigrants came to the US during the 1980s due to the civil war in the region at that time. Some immigrants never went back to their countries and remained in the US. Their population has increased over the years thus leading to the huge number in the country currently.
The immigration of Central Americans to the US caused increased economic dependence on the immigrants. To date, many Central Americans depend on remittances from immigrants in the US. This is because naturalized immigrants gained employment and became economically stable. As a result, these immigrants send millions of dollars back to their home countries causing the citizens in these countries increasingly dependent on them. The immigration resulted in the loss of immigrants’ hereditary cultures as they adopted the American lifestyle. For instance, the immigrants adopted American fashion, tastes, and ideologies which they exported to their home countries. The immigration also increased the number of international calls made between the immigrants and their relatives back at home.