Home Headlines Joker in the Pack – How Nicaragua is Weaponizing Migration to Hurt the USA

Joker in the Pack – How Nicaragua is Weaponizing Migration to Hurt the USA

by sanmigueltimes
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With the US 2024 presidential election approaching, immigration policy at the US-Mexico border continues to be a high-profile issue.

Besides the US, Mexico is traditionally considered the next most instrumental piece in addressing this issue. However, these aren’t the only two entities at play. Often overlooked is the catalytic role Nicaragua has in bringing migrants one step closer to US entry.

Nicaragua is the only country in Latin America that offers Visa-free entry for migrants and asylum seekers at its border. Upon their arrival in the capital city Managua, they are sold Visas that are valid for 96 hours, implying that they are not allowed to stay; rather, it was made to be a temporary stop. This way, they can skip the lengthy, often disappointing process of getting Visa approval before leaving their home country.

Flying into Nicaragua compared to more southbound Latin American countries also means migrants and asylum seekers can avoid numerous obstacles they would otherwise encounter on foot. One of these is the Darien Gap, a region at the Colombia-Panama border involving a dangerous jungle passage and the oversized influence of organized crime groups.

Beyond Latin America, this path of least resistance is being pursued by migrants and asylum seekers from Africa and Asia, including from Senegal, Cameroon, China, and Vietnam. Many rely on quasi-legal travel agencies that operate through Facebook pages and WhatsApp group chats.

These travel agencies pique prospective migrants’ interests by offering a promising alternative to US Visa rejection. As an example, one company called Travel IQ encourages prospective Cameroonian migrants on Facebook to obtain a “Central African passport”, however photo censorship of the passport’s country name implies that they are being sourced via unsanctioned protocols. Additionally, low surface engagement on their public pages implies that further information is communicated via private channels, ensuring the agency’s operations stay concealed. Once a connection is established between a migrant and the agency, a private charter flight is organized to bring them to Managua.

According to The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes, services like these are provided by smuggler groups that intend on manipulating migrants who do not have other viable options to move across borders. There have been reports that migrants unable to pay the agencies back are coerced into working for local or transnational criminal organizations.

At its border, Nicaragua provides a relaxed passage into North America for migrants; an opportunity to start a new and better life. Ironically, inside its border, citizens are being detained and exiled for showing any sign of political opposition against president Ortega’s repressive regime. Freedoms as fundamental as peaceful protest are punished, allowing Ortega and his authoritarian government to reign, by corruption, for over a decade.

Biden’s US administration has openly condemned Ortega’s regime in recent years by imposing sanctions against Nicaraguan agencies and government officials. Nicaragua’s current Visa policy and the irregular migration pipeline it facilitates represents an act of reprisal, and presages continuing US-Nicaraguan tensions.

In an effort to curb the high numbers at the US-Mexico border, as well as continue to place pressure on Ortega’s regime, the Biden administration has enacted another set of sanctions as of May 2024. Despite the sanctions, Nicaragua’s Visa policy has remained unwavering, indicating a necessity for the next US presidential administration to devise a better, long-term strategy in regulating migration and addressing injustice in Latin America.

Just as the US and Mexico are not the only players in navigating immigration at their shared border, the US and Nicaragua are not the only players in their own field of political tension. The authoritarian government carried by Ortega’s regime is notably resemblant of that of Russia’s, a geopolitical rival power to the US for generations. In fact, Russian influence in Nicaragua can be traced to a number of specific sponsored programs including a training center that trains police to prosecute political opposition. The US has since placed sanctions on the center, but broader international influences continue to make Nicaragua, one of the smallest countries in Latin America, a joker as regards to US migration policy.

Angelina Ma, for Times Media Mexico

DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed hereby are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Yucatan Times.

San Miguel Times
Newsroom

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