A Latin Marshall Plan

By all accounts, the migrant surge at the southern border is a crisis. One that is a function of a less-than-seamless transition from the patchwork system of the previous administration as well as humanely ironic messaging.Anyone with a soul would have agreed with Biden Administration moves to exorcise Trump mandates and do a reboot on border-immigration policy that wasn’t just unwelcoming but family-separating. The prudent, pragmatic approach would have been to use the pandemic to buy time.

But humane morphed into chaos as migrants-to-be, smugglers and traffickers saw orders to stop building a wall, a moratorium on ICE deportations and vows to protect “Dreamers” as signs that this was some kind of post-Trump open season.

What the migrant surge requires is an approach that directly impacts the motivation of those migrating up from Central America to the US.-Mexico border. We know the poverty, cartel-gang terrorism and corruption they are escaping from in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. That’s why it’s imperative that America help address thecause—not merely implement an ad hoc policy that translates into a border green light and chaos.

That’s why, as Julian Castro, a former HUD secretary, San Antonio mayor and presidential candidate, advocated in the 2020 debates, we need what amounts to a Marshall Plan for Central America. One that helps law enforcement; addresses governments’ susceptibility to corruption; stimulates economic development with hemispheric trade partners; and prioritizes diplomatic relations. In short, a program that incentivizes locals to stay and grow sustainable communities rather than opt out and flee north. A program that is not a Yanqui giveaway, but one that is a prime example of enlightened self-interest—not unlike the original Marshall Plan. “If we want to solve the immigration issue, we need to go to the root of the cause—and that is that people can’t find safety and opportunity in Central America,” underscored Castro.

And it hardly helps if we don’t have a come-to-Jesus reckoning with Mexico about taking back more Central American families who had entered illegally from Mexico. As part of a migrant-asylum quid pro quo, the U.S. has now agreed to supply Mexico with excess doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, and Mexico has pledged to do its part on its side of the border.

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