"PHOENIX -- If the United States wants to reduce the amount of Central American illegal immigrants pouring over the border, it needs to exercise its influence in the region, an expert said.

"We need to be much smarter about how we help governments," Cynthia Arnson, director of the Latin American Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars told News/Talk 92.3 KTAR's Bruce St. James and Pamela Hughes, Making Sense of the Madness.

Arnson said a variety of factors resulted in the recent surge in immigrants coming to America.

"Conditions in their countries are just intolerable," she said, naming high rates of crime, violence and poverty as a motivating factor for at least 70 percent of immigrants.

Arnson said the U.S. needs to use its influence to improve the average daily life for residents of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala if the tide is to ebb.

Though the U.S. is waging a constant war on drugs, Arnson said the arrest of kingpins and elimination of drug sites does little to lessen violence.

Arnson said an increased incorrect perception that the U.S. would forgive their illegal entry under President Obama's deferred action program also added to the push.

"I think the deliberate spreading of these rumors capitalizes on the hopes and the fears of these very vulnerable people," she said.

The U.S. has taken steps, along with Central American governments, to inform people the rumors about American leniency were false."


To listen to her interview, please click here