Everyone Who Is Gone Is Here: The United States, Central America, and the Making of a Crisis by Jonathan Blitzer - review by Mike Lanchin

Mike Lanchin

Do Not Come

Everyone Who Is Gone Is Here: The United States, Central America, and the Making of a Crisis


Picador 544pp £22

Speaking in Guatemala during a three-day trip to Central America in June 2021, America’s vice president, Kamala Harris, delivered a stark message to those planning to risk the dangerous journey to the US–Mexican border. ‘Do not come,’ she told them bluntly. ‘Do not come.’ During his tenure as president, Donald Trump called those who’d migrated to the United States from Central America ‘rapists’ and ‘criminals’. And back in 1976, the then-head of the CIA compared the threat to the United States presented by illegal immigrants from Mexico to that posed by the Soviet Union. Yet whatever the language, successive American administrations over the past half-century have had little or nothing to show for their pledges to reform the country’s unworkable immigration system or deter the human flow north. 

For a nation of immigrants, it might seem surprising that there was no refugee or asylum policy enshrined in US law for much of the 20th century, that a quota of just five thousand was set for those seeking asylum in the early 1980s and that a policy of separating migrant parents from their children at the border was adopted to deter other immigrants from coming to the country. 

With the steady hand of a seasoned journalist, Jonathan Blitzer meticulously details the twists and turns, reversals and failed initiatives of America’s migration policies. His focus is mainly on immigrants from Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador. As the United States sought to prevent the expansion of the Soviet

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RLF - March