The open-borders, pro-mass-migration lobby all too often depicts mass migration – both legal and even illegal – as an undiluted good. Wealthy receiving nations get more workers (and cheaper ones!), consumers, and diversity; the poor migrants receive a major wage increase; and the underdeveloped sending nations get remittances and a chance to export their impoverished masses. Everyone supposedly wins! And any potential negative consequences are either glossed over or smugly dismissed as insignificant or irrelevant in the greater scheme of things. However, as President Nayib Bukele of El Salvador pointed out, there are indeed important costs associated with mass migration which impact both the countries to which the migrants are heading (receiving nations) and those they are leaving (sending nations).
Mr. Bukele, who has been the leader of the Central American nation since June 2019, shared his thoughts on migration and the situation in his country with Fox News host Tucker Carlson in a March 16 interview.
When asked by Carlson why so many Salvadorans continue to migrate to the U.S. illegally, Mr. Bukele replied that “well, it’s obvious, our country has failed to provide two basic things which are the two main drivers of immigration, which [are]the lack of economic opportunity and the lack of security.” He added that “most people don’t want to leave their country: they like their culture, they like their food, they like their weather, I mean it’s their country, they have their family members here, their friends (…).” Rather than blaming “capitalism,” U.S. foreign policy, insufficient foreign aid, or the climate (as many apologists of mass illegal migration do), El Salvador’s head of state is clear that the root of the problem lies in bad policies at home (which, he argues, he has been attempting to fix).
Carlson then asked about pull factors, in particular the lure of welfare benefits – “if the richest country in the world says: if you cross over the border, we will give you free healthcare, free education, and all these benefits, that’s a draw, isn’t it?” Bukele admitted that this is certainly an “incentive,” adding that mass migration is a game of pros and cons: “you may have a con that probably you don’t know the language, the journey is a difficult one, [and]you may die on the journey, but in the end if they will receive a lot of things then the pros go up and the cons go down.”
As importantly, the president of El Salvador emphasized that it is “immoral” and “not profitable” for a country to push its people to emigrate en masse. A nation must “provide for [its]people.” Moreover, “if you send your hard-working people, and your talented people, (…) who want to risk it just to go and work, you want to keep them here because those would be the drivers of your economy. You don’t want them there so they could send a remittance, which would be a small portion of what they would earn and produce. You want them to produce here.”
Mr. Bukele argued that the “dependence” on illegal migration is bad for both the United States and Latin American countries. Sadly, he did not elaborate on why it is bad for the U.S., other than pointing out that the dependence increases illegal migration levels. The Salvadoran leader was more specific when he explained that a country being a “net exporter of people,” rather than products or services, is ultimately “not a good economic formula” and fuels a “vicious cycle.” He reiterated that “the best thing for both of us [the U.S. and El Salvador]is to keep our people here and to provide for our people right here in our country, and that’s what people right here want.”
Those who genuinely believe that by tolerating mass illegal migration wealthy Western nations are helping poor countries would do well to consider Mr. Bukele’s common-sense argument. Fueling the “dependence” of Latin America – and the “Global South” in general – on the mass export of migrants is in many ways a disservice to the developing world.