A historic wave of refugees from Latin America could flood the nation’s southern border as a result of the economic disaster many countries are facing because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“If there is economic collapse in a given country, it is only natural that there will be migration flows to places where the economy is more robust,” said John Barsa, acting administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development.
“Are we concerned about the economic impacts that this might have, which could lead to migration? Absolutely,” he said.
Barsa added that his team is trying to figure out how to reduce the suffering many Latin Americans could be facing that would drive them across the border.
“I’m looking to ensure that we don’t just focus on the problem right in front of our noses, which is the global health aspect, because this is absolutely going to challenge us on the economic development aspect,” he said.
“The activities we’re doing already address economic development issues. So what we’re seeing with the COVID pandemic, as countries have greater economic challenges, we may have to double down and help them more on an economic development front.”
President Donald Trump suspended nonessential travel across the U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico in response to the pandemic, but officials are worried that dual U.S.-Mexico citizens may flee back across the border and put more stress on hospitals, Reuters reported.
According to a U.S. Department of State estimate, about 1.5 million U.S. citizens live in Mexico.
At this time, there are no plans to prevent dual citizens from coming back to the United States, a senior Department of Homeland Security official said.
A second senior official said the challenge is that governments do not have the money to provide the support citizens need.
“You’re going to have millions and millions of Latin Americans out of jobs, with governments too broke to provide even the meager social safety nets they have,” the anonymous official told the Examiner.
“How do you measure the number of refugees that come out of that level of devastation? You can’t put a number on it, but it’s reasonable to say that it would be completely unprecedented.”
The senior official added that some people might be discouraged from migrating to the U.S. because of the “20 percent or 30 percent unemployment in the United States.”
“There would be pressure for immigration, but depending on how bad things are perceived to be in the United States, it would be either more or less pressure than you would think,” the official said.
Barsa told the Examiner, “This pandemic is having effects on fragile democracies, societies and economies.”
“So the world, whether we like it or not, is going to have some different challenges before us,” he said.
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