As campaigning for the 2020 election ramps up, President Donald Trump has continued to focus on immigration as a key issue, calling the number of migrants at the southern border a national security crisis. Since he began his campaign in 2015 Trump has insisted — and based a good deal of his agenda — on the notion that illegal immigrants are causing a massive crime wave: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, the Trump Administration is preparing a new rule that would dramatically limit the ability of refugees to seek asylum at the US border with Mexico and will likely face immediate court challenges. Under the rule, rule, with limited exceptions refugees seeking asylum would have to do so in a third country through which they transited, rather than at the US border. This comes after Congress passing a $4.6 billion bill in June to address the ongoing crisis at the border, amid growing outrage over the conditions. But while the number of apprehensions at the border has been rising over the last two years, the number of illegal immigrants, by the time Trump became president, had already been declining; and the number of undocumented immigrants in the US is decreasing, according to new analysis from the Pew Research Center -— this is disputed by Foreign Affairs in have risen dramatically since then, reaching a 13-year high of 133,000 in May. Yet in addition, according to Michael Light, a criminologist at the University of Wisconsin, who looked at whether the soaring increase in illegal immigration over the last three decades caused a commensurate jump in violent crimes: murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault, results showed that there has not necessarily been in increase in crime. So one may ask, where is the crisis?
It is true that the United States of America, as with any other country, has the right to determine who can enter legally and who cannot — keeping in mind that immigrating is not a right but a privilege; this is part of a nation’s sovereignty. And there has to be some sort of vetting in order to protect America’s confines. Putting the “gangs and rapists,” aside, a dilemma or concern is that certain immigrants refuse to conform to American values. US Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis — a son of Jewish immigrants — said in his 1915 speech on True Americanism that immigrants seeking a home in America needed to do much more than learn English and have good manners. He argued that they “must be brought into complete harmony with our ideals and aspirations and cooperate with us for their attainment.” This can be equated with the influx of Islamists who threaten to reshape the ethnic and religious composition of the nation-states (they find themselves in), democratic-capitalist tradition and social values. Yet this is not necessarily the case at America’s southern border.
A major cause of migration from the Central American region, known as the Northern Triangle (El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala), is large scale drug and gang related violence and lack of opportunity in education, health and employment. In an effort to escape the violence and to build a more secure future, people walk miles and pay traffickers their life savings to cross the border illegally. They face death, sexual harassment, and detention with the threat of deportation. In one of his first acts in office, President Lopez Obrador has signed an agreement with his counterparts from three Central American countries (El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala) to establish a development plan to stem the flow of migrants seeking asylum in the United States.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrado stated: “The relationship with the government of the United States will be one of respect, mutual benefit and good neighborliness. It is time to change the bilateral relationship towards cooperation for development. Creating jobs in Mexico and Central America is the alternative to migration, not coercive measures.”
To achieve this goal he has proposed a ‘Marshall Plan’ for Central America — a long term strategy to reduce the flow of migrants from Central America to the United States via Mexico. The plan is to raise US $30 billion through public and private investment to build infrastructure, develop the energy sector and create jobs in the region. According to media reports Mexico is likely to invest US $20 billion into the plan. However, foreign minister Marcelo Ebrard, while speaking about the plan at United Nations (UN) migration conference in Marrakech, Morocco (December 2018) did not elaborate on how Mexico will raise the money or details of how it will be utilized. Mr. Ebrard, has also called on El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to contribute similar sums to the plan. He has also stated that seven countries have expressed an interest in the plan, however, details of the countries and the possible amount they are willing to invest has not yet been made public. The United States State Department announced its intention to deliver US $5.8 billion in aid and investment to the plan through OPIC, the government agency in charge of helping American businesses invest in emerging markets.
One has to recognize that there is a problem the southern border. And while a wall can keep some of the “bad guys” out, the same socio-political and economic crisis in Central America will persist. Here, America, as the leader of the free world, needs to take a lead just as it did with the Marshal Plan after World War II in Europe. It would equally require having a military presence in foreign terrain to ensure corruption does not block such efforts. In the end, creating infrastructure in Central America would provide the stability required to halt the flow of illegals entering the US border. Not to mention, with a US-led force, America would not only deflect the economic and political hegemony of China and Russia, but it would recapture its global influence as it did during the post-war era.