THEIR VIEW: Trump undermines his own efforts at the border

Published on Friday, 5 April 2019 19:32
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Just a day after the U.S. reached a new agreement on migration with El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, President Donald Trump announced he was cutting off their aid. At a stroke he has thrown the State Department into chaos, and, more important, made it more likely that caravans of Central American migrants will keep heading north.

Migrant smugglers have taken advantage of a broken, backlogged asylum system that creates perverse incentives to apply. Ending U.S. aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras will not solve that problem. But it will certainly damage the organizations that distribute the aid, and will worsen the plight of their desperate clients. Since desperation drives migration, this is directly counterproductive. Moreover, some of the U.S. assistance helps pay for security. Halting aid will undermine efforts to combat the smuggling of drugs and people.

Trump is right to press Mexico to better control its southern border.

But the best approach to security cooperation with El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras would be to step up support for investigations into bribery, money-laundering, theft, and complicity of corrupt officials in drug and migrant smuggling.

The long-term answer to out-migration is opportunity and prosperity at home. Admittedly, foreign aid is no panacea in that regard. Many economists question its efficacy and have drawn attention to pernicious side effects like corruption and dependency. At low levels of development, moreover, faster economic growth can often add to migration, because it furnishes the means to move.

Nonetheless, well-designed assistance can help.

Aid to Central America is no substitute for working with Congress to fix a broken asylum system. Yet helping El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras is part of the answer, cheap at the price, and very much in the U.S. interest. The president should reverse his decision.

-Bloomberg Opinion

Posted in New Britain Herald, Editorials on Friday, 5 April 2019 19:32. Updated: Friday, 5 April 2019 19:34.