The fundamental responsibility of government is provision of safety for its citizens. By these lights, the failed states we know from the evening news of bombings and of civil war today are certainly in the Middle East but also in Central America. The highest homicide rates in the world are in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.
The influx to the US of large numbers of unaccompanied minor children from Central America - 52,000 in 2014 alone - seems to have caught the US Government, the Obama administration and its opposition Republican-led Congress, by surprise. Both are making statements that have little relation to reality and neither is working on a plausible solution.
Instead of any discussion of the problem of child migrants that takes serious account of facts and of known reputable studies and serious recommendations, President Barack Obama and the House Republicans are trying to score points in a mid-term election year.
The current permissible debate as to causes of immigration is actually described as "push and pull". Democrats and the administration talk of children being pushed out of their home countries by high rates of violence. Republicans talk of children pulled into the US by imagined promises of permanent residence. Republicans cite a 2008 law passed with no opposition under President George W Bush that requires minors from countries with non-contiguous borders with the US (Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador) to have judicial hearings to determine their qualifications for asylum status. The law provides for humanitarian treatment in the meantime. Republicans want to change the law to allow rapid deportation of minors back to their home countries; the administration would consider such a law change but wants US$3.7 billion ($4.2 billion) first, to provide more immigration judges and better detention facilities.
Both parties appear to want to send the children back. The difference seems to be in the timing. Neither side is dealing in fact or even attempting to address the basic issues underlying the crisis.
Child migration from Central America is not a new phenomenon. An International Monetary Fund study of 2009 attributed child migration to three factors: severe economic inequality, presence of drug gangs and high levels of governmental corruption. The correlation with violence is linear. So is the relationship to drugs. It is no random accident that the three countries - Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador - from which these children are coming have the world's highest homicide rates and are the countries that experienced the most severe political violence during the proxy Cold War of the 1980s, when President Ronald Reagan supported right-wing extremists in their fight against left-wing extremists. The suppression of left-wing dissent in Central America led for a brief time to right-wing dictatorship and momentary stability, supported by the US overtly, and covertly by the CIA.
More recently, since the 1990s, the escalating bloody war in Mexico between the Mexican Government and the large drug cartels there has resulted in migration of smaller drug groups into these smaller Central American countries. The drug gangs have brought violence and governmental corruption. The children turn out to be pawns in their game, useful as expendable coerced drug mules and resultant casualties. There is a push and a pull. The push is drug gangs pushed out of Mexico into Central America. The pull is the demand of US consumers for illicit drugs.
In response in 2009, a Latin American Commission composed of ex-presidents of Columbia, Mexico and Bolivia recommended decriminalisation of drugs like marijuana to remove the major incentives for violence and with that to change the pressure for children to leave their homes, and risk their lives in the hope of asylum in America, a hope that Congress and the President seek to extinguish to their shame.