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Open the Door to Venezuelan Migrants

No government in the Western Hemisphere knows what to do with Venezuelan migrants. Native populations in host countries are growing restless and sometimes xenophobic. Yet all signs point to continued massive flows. The number of Venezuelan emigrants could soon approach the number of Syrians who have fled their country and create a crisis in Latin America comparable to the one that rocked Europe in 2015.

In the first 15 years of Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro’s dictatorship, hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans fled to the U.S., Colombia, Panama, Spain and other countries. At first this was a gradual, mostly upper- and middle-class affair. Then amid Venezuela’s economic and political meltdown in 2014, the exodus accelerated. People from all strata of society started heading for the exits. In the past few years, the collapse of Venezuela has become the hemisphere’s worst humanitarian disaster ever.

Four million Venezuelans live abroad, of whom 2.3 million have left in recent years due to the inhumane conditions at home, according to Human Rights Watch. Colombia, across the western border, has received more than one million; Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Brazil and Argentina each have received hundreds of thousands more. In many cases the migrants have settled temporarily in border towns, overwhelming the local infrastructure. Sometimes tensions have triggered violence: In Pacaraima, an entry point in Brazil, the local population attacked migrant tents in August after an assault on a local restaurant owner.

Latin American countries were quite welcoming at the start of the crisis but have lately started imposing harsh controls on migration.

Alvaro Vargas Llosa is Senior Fellow at The Center on Global Prosperity at the Independent Institute. He is a native of Peru and received his B.Sc. in international history from the London School of Economics. His Independent Institute books include Global Crossings: Immigration, Civilization, and America, Lessons From the Poor: Triumph of the Entrepreneurial Spirit, The Che Guevara Myth and the Future of Liberty, and Liberty for Latin America.

From Alvaro Vargas Llosa
GLOBAL CROSSINGS: Immigration, Civilization, and America
The erosion of national boundaries—and even the idea of the nation state—is already underway as people become ever more inter-connected across borders. A jungle of myth, falsehood and misrepresentation dominates the debate over immigration. The reality is that the economic contributions of immigration far outweigh the costs.

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