Magazine article Insight on the News

Government Predicts Mass Migration

Magazine article Insight on the News

Government Predicts Mass Migration

Article excerpt

More than a half-million immigrants from Central America are headed toward the U.S. border. Critics say the White House is partly responsible and entirely unprepared for the invasion.

A vast migration of Central Americans is moving toward the U.S. border. Some 600,000 generally poor, jobless Central Americans, many of them victims of Hurricane Mitch, plan to flee to the United States, where most intend to enter the country illegally. Roughly 280,000 already have headed north.

If all or even a significant number of those seeking to enter the United States make it, the Immigration and Naturalization Service will swamped. Already there is a shortage of Border Patrol agents in some areas and a severe shortage of detention facilities. "The situation would be messy," says Ron Sanders, chief patrol agent of the U.S. Border Patrol in Tucson, Ariz., although he says the INS has emergency plans for such a surge of immigrants.

The figures come from a U.S. Information Agency "briefing paper" based on research performed by a Gallup subsidiary based in Costa Rica. Researchers interviewed a random sample of 1,000 persons in four countries: Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador. For the most part, the respondents spoke of their own plans or those of "close relatives" who recently had abandoned their homelands. The researchers' conclusion: "The United States faces two waves of emigrants on its southern border."

The first wave is composed of Central Americans already on their way, arriving over the next two months. The second, and larger, group is expected to begin wending its way northward "in the next month or so."

Hondurans are leaving their storm-torn country because of "the perceived deficiency of relief efforts," according to the briefing. But three out of 10 had thought of leaving before Mitch hit, and many departed or planned to depart because they'd lost jobs and can't find others. They lack money and "want a better life," the study found.

There is an added incentive for most of those heading north: They have relatives living in the United States. That's true for 77 percent of the 170,000 Hondurans planning to come to the United States in the next months, 63 percent of the 88,000 Nicaraguans, 64 percent of the 170,000 Guatemalans and 76 percent of the Salvadorans. …

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