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Hunger Crisis in Central America May Have Immigration Effects
by Carl R. Baldwin

The Press has been focused recently on the prospect of an immigration agreement between the Mexican and United States governments that might resolve the issue of immigration from there to here. Unnoticed by the U.S. Press is a current humanitarian crisis in Central America, which could have its own significant immigration consequences.

The crisis is one of extreme hunger, threatening starvation for many. The primary cause is the drought of June and July of this year, coinciding with a dramatic fall in coffee prices that has resulted in massive layoffs. The threat of famine is very real, and The Red Cross reported on September 7, 2001, that 41 people had starved to death in Guatemala. In an opening paragraph, the Red Cross report summarized the situation (its web site is at “Initial estimates indicate that that some 1.5 million subsistence farmers in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua have lost thousands of hectares of crops as the result of drought, compounded by additional aggravating factors. The situation if considered particularly serious in Honduras where the government declared a state of emergency in the south, center and west on 23 July, and in Nicaragua where lack of rain has coincided with a dramatic fall in coffee prices, forcing thousands out of work.”

In Guatemala, political corruption has compounded the problem of malnutrition. According to an article in Prensa Libre, a respected Guatemalan daily, on June 10, 2001, (my translation): “While the authorities affirm that they lack funds to alleviate the malnutrition that ravages the country, the present government is known to have made a bundle from public funds. According to calculations of Transparencia Internacional, 24% of the state budget had been lost to corruption.”

No one knows whether the crisis, bordering on famine, will cause Central Americans to travel north to try to save their lives. But the human desperation caused by a natural catastrophe (compounded in some cases by human greed) provides a strong argument that the nationals of all of the stricken Central American countries who are in the U.S. be granted TPS by the Attorney General. Honduras and Nicaragua, until 7/5/2002, and El Salvador, until 9/8/2002, already enjoy TPS designation for other reasons. The present hunger crisis cries out for Guatemala to join them.

About The Author

Carl R. Baldwin graduated from Columbia University Law School in 1980, and became a member of the New York State Bar a year later. He worked for three years with the New York City Law Department, and then entered solo practice in immigration law, which he has continued to the present. His work with clients has included asylum applications, deportation defense, visa processing, adjustment of status, and naturalization. He has also worked to implement special laws, such as the 1986 "amnesty" (The Immigration Reform and Control Act), and the 1998 Haitian reform act (The Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act). Mr. Baldwin is the author of Immigration News Monthly. He can be reached by e-mail at

He has written a book on immigration law, called "Immigration Questions and Answers," 1997, Allworth Press, 10 East 23rd Street, New York, NY 10010 (212) 777-8395. The book, which contains essential background information about how the immigration law works, can be ordered in both an English Edition and a Spanish version from