It’s time to face the truth

The United States government isn’t innocent when it comes to chaos and disarray in Latin American countries

More stories from Faith Hultman


52% of Hispanics say they have been regularly or occasionally discriminated against. Meanwhile the U.S. government continues to ignore the effect its own actions have had in bringing the immigration of Latin American immigrants about.

Latin American immigrants to the United States have all-too-often been seen as unwelcome interlopers. They have faced suspicion, racism and discrimination for upwards of two centuries. However, as many of us know, the composition of America is changing. By mid-century the United States will be a majority-minority nation.

What’s less well known, however, is the impact the U.S. government’s own actions have had in bringing the mass immigration of Latin Americans about. Thousands upon thousands of immigrants have left their homelands and moved north to the U.S. Why?

While each immigrant is an individual, and while the 20-odd countries in Latin America are diverse and unique, there is a common thread tying these mass immigrations of Latinos together.

The U.S. has, for two centuries, actively exploited many Latin American countries, built modern systems of imperialism and been the face of neocolonialism in Latin America.

In 1954 the democratically elected president of Guatemala was determined to affect major land reform and reduce widespread poverty, as only two percent of landowners controlled 75 percent of the usable land.

United Fruit Company, one of the first and largest American-owned multinational companies, owned the largest portion of that land. Eventually the American government succeeded in overthrowing the Guatemalan government. This was the first of — and the blueprint for — many such covert CIA operations in Central America.

According to the Cold War Museum’s official website, “the unforeseen consequences (four decades of instability and civil war in Guatemala) remain the ultimate legacy of the initial CIA covert operation in Latin America.”

The U.S. caused the war, on purpose, to further our own economic interests in a country that wasn’t ours. Yet when Guatemalan immigrants arrived, they were greeted with suspicion, racism and discrimination. During the Reagan administration in the 1980’s, less than two percent of Guatemalan applicants were granted political asylum in the U.S.

In the late 19th century Mexico invited Irish Catholics to settle in the northern parts of their land: now Arizona, Texas, California, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, New Mexico and Wyoming. Instead of Catholics, southern slave owners settled, but slavery had been abolished in Mexico. Thus, the Mexican-American war was begun.

When it was over, the U.S. brought Mexican workers back in to work the land. When the Great Depression hit, however, the U.S. illegally deported as many as a million Mexicans. Some estimates put the number of legal citizens deported at 60 percent.

Historically, the Mexican population has functioned as a dispensable labor force for the United States. During World War II the U.S. initiated the Bracero Program, which brought thousands of workers from Mexico to pick cotton and work the fields.

To this day Mexican immigrants receive very little respect and are often treated with suspicion, even by our president. A Pew Center Research Survey found that 62% of Hispanics born in the U.S. believe they have been treated with suspicion.

However, Mexican immigrants are the largest ever population of legal immigrants documented in U.S. history.

In 1916 the U.S. trained a new Dominican national guard, which then used the power of that guard to elect a dictator who ruled the Dominican Republic for 30 years with absolute and total control and prioritized U.S. interests.

However, in December 1962 the Dominican Republic held its first free elections in almost four decades. Juan Bauch, a liberal social democrat who attempted extreme reform, was the winner. The U.S. had him overthrown in 1963. The government that replaced him was immensely corrupt there was no longer the hope of social reform or free elections.

In 1965, while the country was in turmoil, young officers rebelled and announced they would return Bosch to the presidency. This announcement was met with relief and enthusiasm by the public. However, the U.S. urged “loyalist” generals to overthrow the revolt once and for all. The president elected after this overthrow was a diktat put in place by the U.S.

The list of countries in which the U.S. government has interfered, provided military funding to and placed faux-democratically elected presidents into power in the name of U.S. economic and military interests goes on and on.

The money the U.S. got from selling weapons illegally to Iran was funneled into the Nicaraguan government. 70% of it was used for military forces in the civil war.

The U.S. plunged El Salvador into a civil war and then denied political asylum to 97% of applicants.

The U.S. has owned Puerto Rico since 1898. Over 20,000 Puerto Ricans were drafted into World War II, but to this day they do not have the right to vote for the U.S. president.

The U.S. government threw Cuba into war and chaos after the overthrow of a democratically elected president who promised reform and tried to kick the U.S. off Cuban land.

It’s no wonder the U.S. sees so many immigrants from Latin America. The continued contribution to chaos and disarray by the U.S. government has led to the mass amounts of immigration we’ve been seeing for decades.

If we have, in part, created the instability and lack of safety that cause people to immigrate, then shouldn’t we feel obligated to help those we are displacing?

The narrative that the U.S. is always good, never makes mistakes and stands for freedom and justice everywhere, all the time is one that’s been perpetuated for hundreds of years, but the American people need to evaluate whether or not that’s true.

Instead of saying “they should come here legally,” a phrase which I have often heard, maybe we should evaluate just what it takes to come here legally, and why so many people from Latin America want to be here. The U.S. has played a larger role in the destruction and destabilization of these countries than our government will ever admit. Instead of blaming the immigrants we should look inward.

We as a nation need to take responsibility for our actions. We need reform, not a wall.