Harris Reboots Failed Idea

Throw Money at Migration

Vice President Kamala Harris, doubtlessly growing exasperated by the criticism she’s received for neglecting her Southwest border duties, called on Wall Street chief executive officers to help her sort out immigration problems. The summoned executives came from prominent commercial banks like J P Morgan Chase and Citigroup, as well as industry titans from Microsoft, Chobani, PepsiCo Latin America, Cargill and Airbnb.

In early January, Harris announced more than $1.2 billion in new funding to address, as she so often calls it, the “root causes” of migration to the United States. The concept is to foster more economic opportunity in the Northern Triangle countries of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador to deter illegal immigration. Harris made the announcement during a roundtable with the CEOs. Offering a preview of Harris’ announcement to reporters, a Senior White House representative praised “her leadership, her vision.”

A more complete analysis of the promised funding is that it represents a major commitment by the big businesses, but no money has been invested yet, no jobs have been created, and no one even knows if the subsidy, assuming it ever gets off the ground, will have the promised effect — deterring illegal immigration. A look back at history suggests that Harris’ throw-money-at-the-problem plan is doomed to fail, and colossally.

Not that long ago, in 2015 to be exact, and under exactly the identical circumstances of border surging that included large numbers of unaccompanied minors, the Obama administration proposed a huge investment in the Northern Triangle countries. Then-Vice-President Joe Biden wrote a New York Times op-ed titled “A Plan for Central America” which envisioned “systematic change” that would stabilize neighborhoods to reduce crime, encourage investments and create more effective tax collections among local governments. Biden promised that the Obama administration’s financial support would end “endemic violence and poverty.”

In his op-ed, Biden also compared the Obama administration’s proposed team up with the Alliance for Prosperity to the 1999 Plan Colombia, a failed six-year, $9 billion anti-drug experiment. By 2006, the State Department, then under President George Bush’s direction, shifted its funding to Mexico, and the Merida Initiative with part of its funding designated for Central America. The initiative promised to curtail “the illicit flow of drugs, people, arms, and cash,” a vow that has been broken virtually since the moment the ink dried on the pact.

In 2010, the Central America program was separated from the Merida Initiative, and repackaged as CARI. From 2008 to 2013, the Merida Initiative and CARI received more than $2 billion and $574 million in federal funding, respectively. But CARI did nothing to stem violence or to reduce the migrant surge into the U.S. If anything, the opposite happened. In Honduras and Guatemala, homicide rates climbed steadily as U.S. funding for militarization via CARI began to flow. Honduras sent the largest number of kids to the U.S. border, followed by Guatemala. In 2012, two full years into CARI, there were 7,172 recorded homicides in Honduras, marking the most violent year in the country’s recent history. Murders in Honduras have since declined, but are still an unacceptably high at 3,496 in 2020.

Over the years, the U.S. has poured billions of dollars into the Northern Triangle countries with little to show for the money invested. Thousands of poetic words have been spoken and written like Biden’s and Harris’ about U.S. commitment to help the Northern Triangle nations help themselves. But Harris, the so-called border czar knows, as well as anyone, that with the borders wide open and beckoning, no amount of money or posturing, flowery editorials or public relations-written canned speeches will stop traffickers from bringing drugs and humans north. The National Center for Health Statistics reported that drug overdose deaths in the U.S. during 2020 soared 31 percent to 91,977. Sex trafficking for profit is big business, but prosecutions for those crimes are rare. Through its willful neglect, the Biden and Harris administration encourages trafficking despite its tragic and preventable cost in American lives.

As of early January 2022, the White House has given no indication that it will stop the huge inflow — a record high 1.7 million-plus during 2021 — of mainly poor, unskilled and under-educated migrants. Few fault migrants for wanting to improve their lives. But the unasked and therefore unanswered question is what will happen to education, health care, housing and myriad social challenges if, as appears probable, those waves of migrants continue coming. The latest Census Bureau data indicates that the U.S. has 37 million people that it classifies as living in poverty, and millions of Americans unemployed or underemployed. Struggling Americans are nowhere on the Biden administration’s radar.

Joe Guzzardi is a Progressives for Immigration Reform analyst who has written about immigration for more than 30 years. Contact him at jguzzardi@pfirdc.org.

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Syndicated columnist Joe Guzzardi writes about immigration issues and American baseball history. Twitter @JoeGuzzardi19

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Joe Guzzardi

Joe Guzzardi

Syndicated columnist Joe Guzzardi writes about immigration issues and American baseball history. Twitter @JoeGuzzardi19

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