When Donald Trump said immigrants come to the U.S. to “infest” this society, he meant it.
On Nov. 25, all doubts were cleared when his Border Patrol, before the terrified eyes of the civilized world, launched tear gas canisters at members of the immigrant contingent, including women and children, who had tried to cross the border.
The administration had months to prepare for the arrival of Central American refugees seeking asylum, mostly from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. Yet its answer was rejecting any possibility of accepting applications, contravening both federal law and theUN Declaration of Human Rights, of which the U.S. is a signatory. Trump, instead, fanned the xenophobic and racist flames that characterize him, sent thousand of troops to the border, and authorized them to open fire if need be.
Without any evidence, other than his own fantasies, Trump claimed that among the 6,000 migrants there were more than 500 “dangerous criminals,” falsely accused the migrants of attacking border agents and grotesquely inflated the crime rate of undocumented immigrants already living in the U.S.
By transferring the hysteria and chaos that reigns in his administration to the border, Trump succeeded in keeping most of the country from asking the key question in this drama: What pushed thousands of desperate people to abandon their communities and chase, with their children in tow, a chimera 3,000 miles away?
The complex answer involves poverty (Honduras is the fourth-poorest country in Latin America), violence (Honduras and El Salvador are at the top of the most violent nations in the region), corruption (Honduras is the Western Hemisphere’s fifth-most corrupt country), and the least-discussed factor of them all, the climate crisis.
Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala have suffered devastating droughts aggravated by climate change that are wiping out the subsistence agriculture upon which millions of people rely. After the collapse of at least two harvests in a row, these farmers see only one alternative: migrate north. According to the World Bank, rising temperatures and extreme weather caused by global warming will force almost 4 million Central Americans to migrate to the U.S. in the next 30 years.
Trump, however, cannot be troubled with climate talk, or a “hoax,” as he calls it. In recent days, his reckless rejection of this existential threat reached dismal levels after his own administration released Vol. II of the National Climate Assessment.
The grim report, produced by 300 scientists and 12 federal agencies, warned us that if the U.S. fails to tackle the climate crisis head on by drastically reducing its greenhouse emissions, the economic and social consequences will be catastrophic. This includes the loss of hundreds of billions of dollars annually, a steep reduction of crop yields, and the premature death of thousands of people. Moreover, sea level rise would inflict some $1.3 trillion in real estate losses, especially in the Gulf region.
Watching the heart-wrenching images of children in diapers being gassed, it’s hard to hold back the tears. Yet something more than my gut feeling tells me that starting in January, his show of hysteria and chaos will not continue unchecked.