Opinion

Biden Is Blowing Up Relationships with Mexico and Central America. Here’s How He Can Turn It Around.

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Posted: May 13, 2021 12:01 AM
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Biden Is Blowing Up Relationships with Mexico and Central America. Here’s How He Can Turn It Around.

Source: Michael Reynolds/Pool via AP

In an effort to build stronger relations with Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries, the Biden administration recently announced that it would spent $310 million in the region to help address the so-called “root-causes” of illegal migration. While this figure may look impressive on paper, it does not effectively address the Biden Border Crisis that is negatively affecting countries in the region. Officials from this region continue to denounce the Biden administration’s immigration approach, and so it must put a halt to its border crisis before relations become even more fractured. 

Because the Biden administration has dismantled both the nation’s southern border security and interior immigration enforcement apparatus, illegal immigration from the region is surging. One of the countries most affected is El Salvador. As a significant portion of its working-age population heads north, its labor force is shrinking.  

In a recent interview, an adviser to El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele blasted the Biden administration’s immigration policies stating that “the White House had done more to decimate relations between the two countries than any president since Carter,” and that the administration “mishandle[d] the crisis at the U.S. border by allowing in tens of thousands of migrants so they can supply cheap labor to U.S. corporations and are trying to defend their incompetence by casting Bukele as a dictator."

Nearly 20,000 Salvadorans have crossed the southern border unlawfully since January (the month President Biden took office)—with most seeking better economic opportunities. President Nayib Bukele has become frustrated with this trend and has said that “The best thing…is to keep our people here and provide for our people right here in our country.” 

Bukele refused to meet with President Biden's envoy to the region during a visit last month and has not spoken to so-called Border Czar Kamala Harris because he does not agree with the Biden administration’s plans for the region. 

In Guatemala, President Alejandro Giammattei believes that the Biden administration has created an inhumane border crisis that has helped expand the human trafficking industry. Many Guatemalans are among those being exploited and endangered by the criminal cartels at the U.S. border. 

Giammattei criticized the administration stating that its "messages were confusing" and that when migrant children trek to the U.S, it is a “matter of concern because as soon as they cross the border between Mexico and the U.S., they fall into the hands of cartels and prostitution networks, and so on.” 

The human trafficking business is booming under President Biden. In February, criminal trafficking organizations earned as much as $14 million a day in February, according to border patrol sources.

The relationship between Mexico and the U.S. is also becoming fractured due to the Biden administration’s open borders immigration approach. 

Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has blamed Biden for the border crisis, calling him the "migrant president.” The administration’s immigration policies have helped expand organized crime in Mexico, according to the Mexican government. One Mexican official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that organized crime began changing “from the day Biden took office” and now exhibited “unprecedented” levels of sophistication.

Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard has also privately indicated that Biden’s rapid-fire rollback of Trump policies incentivized migration in the short term and his proposed solutions, i.e. addressing “root causes” of migration consisted of long-term measures that won’t be seen anytime soon (or, likely, ever).

In order to improve relationships with these countries (and to effectively address the Biden Border Crisis), the administration should look to reimplement Trump administration immigration policies that restored order in the region.

The Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) were a program implemented by the Trump administration that required asylum seekers to wait in Northern Mexico until their court hearing date rather than being released immediately into the U.S. The MPP helped reduce illegal migration, fraudulent asylum claims, and most importantly “catch and release” which is now serving as a major pull factor for criminal gangs and human trafficking at the U.S. border. 

El Salvador (and presumably other countries in the region) indicated that they don’t want to lose their most productive workers to the U.S. The Biden administration could help out by reprioritizing deportations and worksite enforcement operations so that illegal aliens who overstay their temporary employment visas or who enter the country illegally are deterred from seeking employment. These two actions would immediately help cut off the jobs magnet that is stealing the working classes from countries in the region. 

It’s clear that officials of these nations are not happy with the Biden administration’s immigration approach that has created chaos not only at the U.S.-Mexico border but also throughout the region. Throwing money at these countries won’t improve relations with them or effectively mitigate the Biden Border Crisis. These countries do not want the negative effects associated with having porous borders and virtually no immigration enforcement, which end up increasing human trafficking, crime, and diminishing working classes.

In order to improve relations with these countries, the administration must regain control of the southern border by reimplementing Trump administration immigration policies. Its foreign aid package is nothing more than a smoke screen and does not address the immediate interests of these countries. 

Matthew Tragesser is press secretary at the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in Washington D.C.