To understand why immigrants are seeking refuge in U.S., brush up on the Monroe Doctrine

People rally at the Families Belong Together - Freedom for Immigrants March in downtown Los Angeles on June 30, 2018.
People rally at the Families Belong Together - Freedom for Immigrants March in downtown Los Angeles on June 30, 2018. AP

There is a direct, historic and strong link between social turmoil in Latin America and immigrants entering the United States: Since these countries escaped colonial rule by Spain and other European countries in the early 1800s, Latin American countries have been controlled in large part by U.S. foreign policy under the Monroe Doctrine of 1823. Ostensibly, the Monroe Doctrine was a warning to European powers not to interfere in Latin American affairs. Practically speaking, this Doctrine made these countries pawns to U.S. interests and subsequently, U.S. foreign power, both political and military. Why?

The purpose of U.S. foreign policy has been, since the beginning, to ensure stable markets for U.S. exports and imports. Countries ruled by dictatorship rather than democracy were much more reliable and stable trading partners. When commodities were the main trade good (e.g. agricultural products, minerals), social conditions in the dictatorships to the south of us were not good. When illegal drugs became a primary trade good (e.g. heroin and cocaine), conditions got a lot worse.

Consider the U.S. War on Drugs: This war did much harm to our country because it is a war declared on people who sold and used drugs; it is impossible to make war on chemicals and plants. The effects of this war were much worse on our neighbors to the south, and continue to this day.

In a very real and demonstrable way, refugees and immigrants flee Latin American countries because of conditions created by the USA. Domestic and gang violence are two examples. The most infamous example has been the military death squads supported by the USA.

The death squad members were often trained at the infamous School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia, now renamed the Western Institute for Security Cooperation. For these reasons, and many more, our current immigration policies (so-called “zero-tolerance,”) are one of the cruelest jokes in history.

It is imperative that American citizens be aware of how illegal immigration today is a result of U.S. government policies and actions of yesterday. The Trump regime has legitimized kidnapping children and indefinite detention of families who are fleeing legitimate dangers — threats to their safety created in large part by the government now persecuting them.

Retired San Luis Obispo County Library Director Brian Reynolds began visiting Mexico in his youth and since then has worked, studied, and traveled extensively in several Latin American countries.