The Human Costs of Outsourcing Deportation

In recent years, hundreds of thousands of Central Americans have sought asylum in the United States. Most of them are from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, the three countries that compose the Northern Triangle, one of the most violent regions in the world. Rather than providing Central Americans humanitarian assistance or a place of refuge, the United States—first under Barack Obama and now under Donald J. Trump—increased its detention capacity and expedited deportations. In fiscal year 2014 alone, U.S. Border Patrol officers apprehended more than 237,000 people from the Northern Triangle, including nearly 52,000 unaccompanied children and over 61,000 people who arrived with their families. They also removed more than 121,000 Salvadorans, Hondurans, and Guatemalans, 70 percent of whom the government classified as “non-criminals.”1

The following year, the U.S. Border Patrol apprehended half as many people from the Northern Triangle, leading some people to declare that the “surge” had ended. In reality, however, the decline in apprehensions was a product of the U.S. government’s outsourcing to Mexico the deportation of Central American asylum seekers. From 2014 to 2015, the number of people Mexico deported to the Northern Triangle shot up from 91,000 to more than 165,000, more than making up for the nearly 40 percent drop in U.S. deportations to the region. When considered together, the number of people the United States and Mexico deported to the Northern Triangle actually increased, from 213,000 to more than 251,000. The difference was whereas the United States accounted for more than half of all deportations in fiscal year 2014, Mexico was responsible for two-thirds of the deportations in 2015.2

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About Adam Goodman

Adam Goodman is an assistant professor of history and Latin American and Latino studies at the University of Illinois–Chicago. He has published articles, essays, and reviews in academic venues like the Journal of American Ethnic History and popular outlets such as The Nation and the Washington Post. Goodman's current book project explores the history of deportation from the United States and the different ways that the federal government has forced, coerced, and encouraged people to leave the country over the last 125 years.