Cronin indicated the novel coronavirus and its effects will likely increase the number of immigrants.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has made living conditions worse,” he said. “The pandemic has destroyed local economies, making daily life for many vulnerable families next to impossible. Put simply, COVID-19 is exacerbating the many push factors driving people to migrate.”
Cronin said better support for prospective migrants could help them stay in their home countries.
“Poverty, lack of opportunity, and violence have, for years, driven people in increasing numbers to leave their homes in search of a safe and dignified existence,” he said.
“Most people do not want to be uprooted from their homes,” he added. “According to a recent survey we conducted in Guatemala, more than 75% of respondents had little or no intention to migrate.”
Factors that help keep people rooted in their communities include access to basic healthcare and education; stable jobs—especially for young people; access to formal education or job training; access to land; and community participation and leadership opportunities that improve living conditions.
“As we develop a new strategy toward the region, we need to invest in programs that allow people the opportunity to stay,” Cronin said.
There is a typical increase in migration numbers each January through May, coming with the end of winter and before the summer months make desert travels more deadly.
The Washington Post analysis argued it was erroneous to blame Biden administration policies for the increase in migrant numbers. Similarly, when apprehension numbers drop in the summer months, any policymakers who claim success in deterring migration could be taking advantage of seasonal changes in migration.
Cronin said that increasing vulnerable countries’ abilities to adapt to climate change can also help Central Americans.
“For example, climate change has led to more frequent and devastating storms, like the two back-to-back hurricanes that hit Central America in November. These storms swept through the region and made living conditions even more desperate,” he said.
Honduras suffered this “perfect storm.” It was already one of the poorest and most dangerous Latin American countries and then suffered two major strikes from Hurricanes Eta and Iota last year.
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
These storms “damaged homes, displaced tens of thousands of people and destroyed the agriculture sector,” Cronin said. “The recovery for many families will take years.”
As the coronavirus epidemic began, the Trump administration cited Title 42 of the 1944 Public Health Act to summarily expel undocumented immigrants who attempted to enter the United States. These expulsions delayed prospective migrants, and did not deter them, the Washington Post analysis suggested.
In the first five months of the fiscal year, which runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30, there were some 382,000 apprehensions at the border.
About 82% of those detained were single adults, and these are predominantly men from Mexico seeking jobs. Almost all single adult migrants remained at the border after they were turned away. The Wall Street Journal said that the percentage of undocumented migrants detained at the border who had already been detained once rose to almost 40% in the last six months, compared to 7% in 2019.
Most detained undocumented families and unaccompanied minors are from Central America. These families number about 39,000 in the first five months of the fiscal year. In 2019 over 136,000 families had been detained in the same period, a number which dropped to 37,000 in 2020.
Space in U.S. detention centers for families is limited because of the coronavirus epidemic, and federal law bars the detention of families with children for a period exceeding about 20 days, the Wall Street Journal reports.