The caravan of Honduran nationals that has been making its way through Mexico, toward the U.S. border, has received a lot of media attention. But, as many predicted, its numbers have begun to dwindle, from a high of nearly 1,500 to a mere 200, or so.
At the outset, the caravan-members expressly stated their belief that they have an unquestionable right to asylum in the United States. And many in Washington and the media began asking, "How could it hurt if we just let in this small group?"
The answer to that question is that while it would certainly help the few hundred Hondurans who made it here, it would do nothing to ameliorate the circumstances that send many Hondurans and other Central Americans to seek better lives abroad. Those conditions can only be addressed by citizens demanding meaningful social, economic, and political reforms in their homelands. So long as corrupt regimes can direct impoverished citizens to the United States, there is little incentive for them to address the underlying problems.
Honduras has a current population of about 9 million people. However, there are roughly 500,000 Hondurans living in the United States, and many thousands living abroad in other nations. Had those expatriates remained in their own country, might they have helped avert the constitutional crisis of 2009 or changed the outcome of the 2017 presidential election?
By admitting their dissatisfied citizens to the United States in large numbers, we may simply be acting as the safety valve for dysfunctional regimes who can’t provide basic services to their own citizens – and inadvertently prolonging the misery of untold millions.
Moreover, Honduras is not unique. In a world in which hundreds of millions, perhaps billions of people live in what can only be described as failed states, these problems cannot be addressed through mass migration. The "caravan," and other recent mass movements of people, should be a reminder that the most important role Western nations can play is to assist those who are working to reform their societies from within.
Dan Stein is the president of the Federation of Americans for Immigration Reform.