Identifying The “Root Causes” of The Migrant Crisis On The Southern Border: Conclusion

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This series of articles began with a number – 891,213 encounters with undocumented aliens reported by the Border Patrol on the southern U.S. border during the first nine months of this fiscal year.  That number was followed by a statement by Vice President Harris that she would focus her attention on determining the “root causes” of the surge of illegal immigration on the southern border.

For the four largest identified sending countries – Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador – those causes have not been too difficult to identify.


Mexico is a fragile state wracked by years of violence by competing drug trafficking organizations, public corruption, and poverty and may well on its way to becoming a failed state.

Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador are all exceptionally poor, violent, and corrupt.

If we had identifying data for the nationalities of the 137,176 encounters during the same period classified as “other” by the Border Patrol, we would likely find these people come from countries experiencing similar conditions. It requires no great leap of the imagination to understand why people who live under such circumstances would flee their homelands to find better lives for themselves and their families.


The information presented in this series of articles came entirely from publicly available sources, documented at the end of each country section. As readers may have noticed, much of it came from U.S. government sources, including the Central Intelligence Agency, the Congressional Research Service, and the U.S. Department of State. This information is not difficult to find and, presumably, is readily available to the Vice President and her staff.

Critics may argue this series of articles have described the symptoms contributing to, rather than the “root causes,” of mass migration from sending countries. Further research concerning the systemic causes of poverty, violence, and corruption in Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvor, and elsewhere would no doubt yield a great deal of additional historical and sociological data pointing toward the underlying causes of mass migration from these countries. All of which, while interesting, would contribute little toward addressing the immediate problem on the southern border.

National security strategy, foreign policy, and federal law enforcement are not academic exercises. Significantly, Raul Ortiz, the new Biden-appointed chief of the Border Patrol has publicly recognized the urgent need for a “whole of government” approach to border strategy (the Border Patrol’s Mr. Ortiz discusses the shift away from Trump-era policies at yahoo!news). The migrant crisis on the southern border is a real problem, with real consequences for real people on both sides of that border, a problem that demands a real and effective strategic solution, not just further pointless study of its not very mysterious “root causes.”


See the author’s first part: Identifying the “Root Causes” of the Immigration Crisis on the Southern Border: Part 1

See the author’s second part: Identifying the “Root Causes” of the Immigration Crisis on the Southern Border: Part 11

See the author’s third part: Identifying The “Root Causes” of The Migrant Crisis On The Southern Border: Part III


Ed Cochran, a retired U.S. Army officer and a retired senior civilian employee of the U.S. Department of Defense, is a regular contributor to The Prickly Pear on national security issues. He holds an MS in Strategic Intelligence from the Joint Military Intelligence College (now National Intelligence University), and an MA in National Security and Strategic Studies from the U.S. Naval War College. His published work has appeared in The Journal of Strategic Studies, Israel Affairs, Parameters, The International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, and the International Bulletin of Political Psychology.


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