How to Make the Border Situation Worse

Trump declares he will end aid to Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.

Via the  NYT:  Trump Directs State Dept. to End Aid to 3 Central American Countries

At Mr. Trump’s direction, the State Department on Friday began the process of informing Congress that it intended to end the foreign aid. A person with knowledge of the decision said that Mr. Trump met with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday, after which diplomats were directed to begin the process of cutting off the funds by drafting letters to lawmakers. Mr. Trump publicly said as much on Friday in comments to reporters.

[…]

“No money goes there anymore,” Mr. Trump said. “We’re giving them tremendous aid. We stopped payment.”

The State Department issued a statement late on Friday saying: “At the secretary’s instruction, we are carrying out the president’s direction and ending FY 2017 and FY 2018 foreign assistance programs for the Northern Triangle. We will be engaging Congress as part of this process.”

Now, since these are monies appropriated by law, it is likely the case that Trump’s stark rhetoric does not match up with reality.  It is unlikely that the White House can so easily cut off these funds. Along those lines, see Adam Issacson‘s run-down at the Washington Office on Latin America.

More from the NYT piece:

Mr. Trump’s decision to end the aid to the Central American countries is likely to anger members of Congress from both parties, who have supported spending money to try to address the root causes of the violence that has caused migrants to flee those countries to come to the United States.

Currently, the United States spends about $620 million a year for gang prevention programs and other initiatives aimed at helping support civil society in the three countries. Advocates say that cutting the funds will only accelerate the migrant flows into the United States.

The truly striking thing about this move is that if the policy goal of the United States is to stem the tide of asylum-seekers from Central America, then living conditions in those places will have to improve.  Cutting off aid to these locations will not accomplish that goal, rather it will likely do the direct opposite.  Indeed, if stopping caravan of Central Americans is actually of importance to Trump, he ought to stop seeking to waste money on a wall and think about how those funds might be used to stabilize the situations in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.  I will even say that it may also include a re-evaluation of the application of current aid, as it may be that there are better ways to help these countries.

But a policy (that should probably be in scare quotes) that purports the withdrawal of “tremendous payments” will solve the migrant crisis is foolhardy (to put it kindly).  This is not a case in which we tried to buy something and the product wasn’t delivered.  This is a complicated situation about development within the legacies of numerous civil wars and other political violence and in the context of the ongoing drug war.  The US not only has direct responsibility for some of that history, solving policy problems on the border also suggest a very different approach (not to mention, you know, the human beings who are involved in all of this).

One of the fundamentals of the entire border wall saga (and, indeed, of the border security issue going back decades) is that most simplistic assertions about the border (e.g., They should just follow the laws! Build a wall! Cut off aid! etc.) ignore a deep, basic truth:  these are people who are willing to basically walk from Central America to the United States, often with small children, because they think it is the only way to have a stable life for themselves and their families.  That speaks to the desperation that drives this behavior, which speaks to the conditions that drive the desperation.

From a crass political point of view, this kind of thing will help Trump with his base, and of the skills the man does have, knowing his fans is one of them.  In terms of Trumpian logic, it just further confirms his childlike grasp of policy.  Border problem?  Build a wall.  Countries won’t do what you want?  Take away their money.  Problem solved!

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, Latin America, US Politics, World Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Teve says:

    A friend on FB:

    it actually makes total sense if the goal is to reassure the base you’re punishing brown people and to make sure the privatized internment camps on the border stay full

    Trump takes the status quo, creates a crisis, then demands praise for fixing the crisis, while not fixing the crisis.

    ReplyReply
    10
  2. Teve says:
  3. @Teve: Yup. I just posted about it, in fact. Ugh.

    ReplyReply
  4. Slugger says:

    A case could be made that El Salvador for one would be better off if they had never received a single US dollar in foreign “aid.” Their civil war was financed by the US, and led to devastation and bloodshed on a huge scale. The idea that US foreign aid is some sort of a charity is easily disproved; it is an instrument to advance our hegemonic goals usually with no regard for the corruption and murderous injustices produced in the recipient nations. There are about a hundred examples around the world if one cares to look.
    I am for ending foreign aid except for humanitarian disaster relief, but we have to stop standing on their necks at the same time.

    ReplyReply
  5. Kit says:

    From a crass political point of view, this kind of thing will help Trump with his base

    And that, I’m afraid, is all there really is to say politically. Do we take heart in the fact that Trump needed two years to think of this, or despair at the thought that he is finally getting comfortable with the immense power the presidency holds?

    ReplyReply
  6. @Slugger: I take you point, but not to be overly flippant: there is no time-travel technology at hand to deploy. We have incurred a debt in the region, and we owe at least humanitarian aid.

    Or, perhaps more directly: simply cutting off support now will not make anything better for anybody.

    ReplyReply
  7. john430 says:

    What have we received for our money? How have the lives of ordinary Central American citizens been improved? Answer to both questions–Nothing. If the OAS won’t do anything for their respective brother-nations then we should ask the UN to intervene. Clearly, certain Central American states are unable to govern or police themselves.

    ReplyReply
    13
  8. Kathy says:

    @Slugger:

    Their civil war was financed by the US, and led to devastation and bloodshed on a huge scale.

    Half their civil war was financed by the US. The other half by someone else.

    It’s all well and good to call America to account for past misdeeds, but let’s not forget the Soviets and their allies also did similar things.

    In any case, as Steven pointed out, there’s no way to have anyone unintervene in the past. What matters is what is best to do now.

    ReplyReply
  9. Michael Reynolds says:

    @john430:
    You know we’re in the OAS, right? And represent the largest economy by far. The organization’s entire budget is something like 80 million.

    ReplyReply
    11
  10. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Kathy:
    I don’t think people are quite clear on the one-way nature of time. And that is true of Right and Left. The only way is forward, there is no reverse gear.

    ReplyReply
  11. Mr. Prosser says:

    @john430: According to a PBS report in 2017 about $180 million was sent to Honduras but the majority went to combat gangs https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/fleeing-honduras-and-whats-being-done-for-those-left-behind) and drug smuggling which meant it went to the army and the police, both of which are notoriously corrupt. If the aid was spent on fighting poverty perhaps there would be better solutions. Keeping the three countries in turmoil is much better for the present US administration because it keeps the caravans coming

    ReplyReply
  12. @john430: There is a substantial amount of ignorance in your comment. Not only about what the OAS would be able to do, but that the fact that both UN or OAS action would involve the US. Beyond that, you are utterly ignoring US responsibility in much of what has happened (and is happening) in the region. MS13, as I have noted before, was born in the US and we ended up exporting it back to Central America.

    Clearly, certain Central American states are unable to govern or police themselves.

    This just comes across as arrogant and more than a little imperialist, if not just straight-up racist.

    ReplyReply
    14
    2
  13. Kathy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    I know this, but sometimes even i get stuck bitching about the past, vehemently. Specifically with job-related idiocies, it kind of helps me to deal with frustration.

    ReplyReply
  14. Teve says:

    Something tells me John420’s favorite Fox host is Tucker.

    ReplyReply
  15. Slugger says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I agree with you that there will be problems in Mesoamerica after the abrupt withdrawal of aid. In the short term these problems will affect the locals. In the long term, nature abhors a vacuum, and these nations are too small to be fully independent. Someone, not the US, will step in. I predict a Chinese based political, economic, and military presence on our southern border in 25 years. Not a problem for me or Mr. Trump; we’ll be playing harps by then.
    I do think that humanitarian aid for disaster relief is a good. We have done such a fine job in Puerto Rico. Sorry, I could not resist that last remark.

    ReplyReply
  16. john430 says:

    @Michael Reynolds: No, Duh? Of course I know. That is why I suggested we call the OAS to action.

    ReplyReply
  17. john430 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Given that my one true love is a beautiful Hispanic woman, I think you are the shoot from-the-hip type of idiot who just has to play the race card. Fuck you and your Inside the Beltway crowd.

    ReplyReply
    2
    11
  18. Michael Reynolds says:

    @john430:
    So it’s fine with you if we spend just as much but do it through the OAS? Um. . . OK. Not sure I see the relevant difference. It’d still be our money, we’d just have less control over how it was spent.

    ReplyReply
  19. Gustopher says:

    If we were increasing aid to Mexico, particularly Southern Mexico, in an effort to get the refugees to stop there, I could see an argument for this. I would still be opposed to cutting the aid, but I could at least see the argument.

    This is just dumb.

    ReplyReply
  20. DrDaveT says:

    The truly striking thing about this move is that if the policy goal of the United States is to stem the tide of asylum-seekers from Central America, then living conditions in those places will have to improve. Cutting off aid to these locations will not accomplish that goal, rather it will likely do the direct opposite.

    Unfortunately, the idea of directly addressing the circumstances that drive unwanted behavior, rather than merely punishing the behavior, marks you as an unrepentant Liberal, and probably a Socialist. This has long been one of the bright lines dividing liberals from conservatives — liberals want to address root causes of unwanted behaviors, while conservatives want to punish those behaviors as a deterrent. If you find yourself thinking at some point that better education or less corruption or less wealth disparity would fix many problems, you are a liberal.

    ReplyReply
  21. @john430:

    Given that my one true love is a beautiful Hispanic woman,

    So, your best friend is Hispanic. That doesn’t absolve you from your statements.

    We have been here before, it seems to me, and you have deployed that defense before.

    I think you are the shoot from-the-hip type of idiot who just has to play the race card

    Yes, a guy who writes 1000s and 1000s of words on a blog and takes time to respond in detail to commenters is a “shoot from-the-hip type.”

    And it is not the race card when a statement sounds racist. You basically asserted that those people can’t govern themselves.

    . Fuck you and your Inside the Beltway crowd.

    Like the other day, you go to ad hominem.

    I am going to resist the impulse to ask you to leave, but you are getting close to be uninvited to the party.

    ReplyReply
  22. @Slugger:

    We have done such a fine job in Puerto Rico. Sorry, I could not resist that last remark.

    A fair comment. But our response to PR was not the fault of ability, but of will (and is a whole other conversation given that is it US territory).

    ReplyReply
  23. Hal_10000 says:

    I’m curious if this will actually be policy. In December, we agreed to a $10 billion aide package. Trump may just be blustering.

    ReplyReply
  24. George Kafantaris says:

    Though the President continues to run our country to the ground, Republicans haven’t a clue what to do about it.
    Even though Mueller showed them the way with his report, they are cheering Barr’s efforts to defang it — as if they have anything half as potent to bring some measure of control. By the time Republicans figure things out, much of what they have built the last 50 years will be topsy-turvy — as will much of our country.

    ReplyReply
  25. Gustopher says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    So, your best friend is Hispanic. That doesn’t absolve you from your statements.

    Now, now, let’s not jump to conclusions. What @john430 wrote was “my one true love is a beautiful Hispanic woman“ — nothing there confirms that this beautiful Hispanic woman even knows he exists. John340’s lovely African-American wife may read that and roll her eyes, and be saying “John, Mr. 340 honey, you know you’re not ever getting with Sonya Sotomayor”

    (Also, I thought they were Latina now. Is it a generational/political thing?)

    ReplyReply
  26. Teve says:

    @Hal_10000:

    Yeah I see this from the AP 4 mos ago.

    The U.S. State Department issued a simultaneous statement saying “The United States is committing $5.8 billion through public and private investment to promote institutional reforms and development in the Northern Triangle,” a term that refers to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

    So wtf…?

    ReplyReply
  27. Teve says:

    Ann Coulter just said on Twitter that Fox shouldn’t have called them Mexican countries, they should have called them Shithole Countries.

    ReplyReply
  28. Hal_10000 says:

    @Teve:

    Troll is trolling.

    ReplyReply
  29. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I was going to note that you must be wrong about John430 because he’s the one with the lovely Hispanic wife and as a consequence of this fact, knows everything about Latin America, but I see he already took care of it.

    ReplyReply
  30. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Teve: Ann’s soooooo good a adding a touch of class anywhere she shows up, isn’t she?

    ReplyReply
  31. An Interested Party says:

    There is a substantial amount of ignorance in your comment.

    I’m shocked! Aren’t you?

    Given that my one true love is a beautiful Hispanic woman…

    Ahh, a variation on the old “some of my best friends are black” defense…it didn’t work then and it doesn’t work now…

    ReplyReply
  32. Jen says:

    I’ve become just cynical enough to think this might be intentional. Cut off aid, and rubes on the right are happy, it makes the situation far worse, causing an additional influx of people seeking asylum and all of the sudden we *do* have an actual crisis on our hands. TV visuals create just enough of an image that less-engaged people say, “oh, maybe we do need a wall…” etc.

    ReplyReply
  33. Matt says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: I tried to get John430 to meet up with me down here in Texas so I could meet him and his lovely hispanic wife but for some reason he has refused. The conversation ended as soon as I posted pictures of the damage in my front yard from hurricane Harvey to prove that I lived down here… I’m sure he’s somewhere in Texas but where who knows.

    ReplyReply

Speak Your Mind

*