In grappling with the Central American migrant crisis at the southern US border, policymakers must remember that families have fled these countries for decades. This is not a new phenomenon. Drugs, gangs and poverty have long led people to migrate from Central America to take refuge in other countries, including the United States, Canada and Spain. Climate change has become another motivator for migration, especially for farmers struggling with droughts and flooding.
While the numbers of people seeking asylum keeps growing, it is important to remember that virtually no one actually wants to flee his or her home and start from scratch in a foreign land. High numbers of people moving to seek refuge in another country are almost always a sign that conditions have become extremely difficult, dangerous and perhaps even hopeless. Those fleeing such circumstances believe they have no other choice but to uproot themselves and their families, risking their lives to find a better place to find safety and start over. In Guatemala, the migration is coming from both rural farm areas and the cities where gang violence has escalated.