Mexico is Wrong: Increasing Foreign Aid to Central America Will Not Stem Migration Flows

Mexico’s Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard believes that the United States needs to invest more heavily in Central America in order to stem migration flows in the region.

In an interview with a Mexican radio station, the foreign minister argued that “there needs to be bigger investment from the United States in Central America than has been given, without a doubt. Without this investment, if the United States does not support Central America, it’s very hard to think that the migration flows that are happening will diminish.” 

Within the last year, the United States provided more than $600 million in foreign assistance to the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. President Biden also requested an additional $861 million from Congress to assist these countries in the next fiscal year.

Clearly, the Biden administration (most notably Vice President Kamala Harris, who has made it her mission to “address the root causes of migration,” rather securing our borders) and Mexico believe that foreign aid can be the panacea in helping reduce illegal migration flows. But in reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

This money is often abused by corrupt government officials in these three countries. In a July State Department report, more than 50 current or former senior officials were accused of engaging or facilitating corruption in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. After President Biden announced that his administration would target corruption in the region, political officials in El Salvador and Guatemala forced out several senior judges known for their independence anti-corruption efforts.

Recently, in Guatemala, former president Jimmy Morales prevented a United Nations-backed anti-corruption investigation into his government and was accused of widespread crimes. He then questionably received immunity while his administration officials were prosecuted. Similarly, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández was recently charged for taking bribes from drug traffickers and, according to U.S. prosecutors, had the country’s armed forces protect a cocaine laboratory and shipments to the United States.

Needless to say, this foreign assistance would likely not be placed in good hands and it would be difficult to determine where it would end up. Even if the aid were to reach officials with good intentions, it would still not be effective in stemming migration flows. In 2014, the Obama administration committed $750 million to help alleviate conditions in Central America. Within five years, apprehensions of migrants from the Northern Triangle soared by 160 percent at the southern border.

Foreign aid is not the most effective solution to stem migration flows in the region. The data and history show that. Addressing and eliminating pull factors that incentivize migrants from more than 160 countries to come to the U.S. southern border is what would better control these flows.

In just a few months in office, the Biden administration dismantled the nation’s border security by halting the vast majority of all southern wall construction, terminating the ‘Remain in Mexico’ program (even though it suggests that it will bring it back soon), and ending Asylum Cooperation Agreements (ACAs) with the Northern Triangle countries.

During this same time frame, the administration has taken a wrecking ball to interior immigration enforcement. It issued memoranda that protect virtually all illegal aliens from deportation and end worksite enforcement. In the spring, each agent within Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was averaging one arrest every two months and in April, the agency deported fewer than 3,000 individuals — the lowest monthly total on record.

Combined, these reckless border security and interior immigration enforcement moves have spurred new surges of illegal immigration. They are why some one million illegal aliens have been released into the country in Fiscal Year 2021, and why border apprehensions have hit historic totals. These actions signal to migrants that entering illegally can be done easily and carries no penalty.  

Increasing foreign aid to Central America may feel or sound good, but in reality, it is an ineffective approach in addressing large levels of migration in the region. Ending pull factors at home would be the more effective approach.