Vice President Kamala Harris wants to improve conditions in Central America using private-sector investments, in part to reduce migratory pressure on the U.S. southern border. It is a great idea, for practical, moral and historical reasons.
The question is whether she can pull it off. Her tenure so far has not been marked by major accomplishments.
The idea itself has great merit. Migration is a matter of both pull and push. Yes, people come to this country because it offers freedom, opportunity and prosperity. But they are willing – or eager – to leave their own country behind because things there are not good. And in the case of Central America, we “Norte Americanos” bear more than a little responsibility for those poor conditions.
Many of that region’s worst problems stem from drug trafficking and the corruption and gang violence that come from it. People cannot enjoy life amid gang wars and governments cannot combat the drug trade when they are at least tangentially part of it.
It is easy for officials to call for greater law enforcement efforts, but a better – and more honest – approach is to ask: Who is buying those drugs? Harris’ approach essentially acknowledges the answer we all know.
It effectively recognizes a historical truth as well. The United States has a responsibility to Central America, for the simple reason that this country has intervened in, interfered with and, generally, messed about in Central America for well longer than a century.
A good explanation of that came from a retired Marine Corps major general – and two-time Medal of Honor recipient – named Smedley Butler. In the 1930s, he wrote a speech (and a book) “War is a Racket.”
In it he details how, with the Marines, he intervened in a number of Latin and Central American nations on behalf of U.S. business interests. He specifically mentions invading Mexico, Haiti, Cuba, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic and Honduras. The U.S. seizure of Panama from Colombia predated him.
Nowadays, this country rarely sends troops to interfere in Central America. Today, Americans just send money – to all the wrong people.
So, Harris is not off base in wanting Americans to send money, in the form of commercial investments, to the good people of Central America. It may be the only way to counter the drug money.
She says she has commitments of nearly $3.2 billion toward her efforts. That is great, but in the context it is a pittance and should be seen as a test case. If those investments seem to be doing good, much more will be needed to make a real impact on immigration.
At that point, if the evidence shows good effect, the effort would need to be expanded and funded as a major federal program. But whatever it costs, it could prove to be cheaper than what is happening now.
Maybe then we will also find out if the “build the wall” crowd really wants to address immigration or if that was just chest pounding.