Category Archives: Academia

Jesuit Migration Network on Capitol Hill

Along with other members of the Jesuit Migration Network, I spent last Friday on Capitol Hill meeting with staff from three Senate offices. We discussed the importance of tackling the root causes of violence in Central America that are forcing thousands of men, women, and children to flee the region.

In particular, we advocated for continued U.S. support for the region. We've followed an enforcement heavily policy for much of the last two decades, and it seems to have only gotten worse under President Trump. At this point in time, I urged public support for Guatemala's new attorney general and the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG). I can't say that any of the staff members from the three offices were familiar with what is going on in Guatemala. See Kate Doyle and Elizabeth Oglesby's take on what is happening in Guatemala in Why Guatemala’s Anti-Corruption Commission Faces a New Wave of Efforts to Derail It for World Politics Review.

We also discussed the awful policy of separating children from their parents at the border and holding migrants in custody rather than releasing them before their hearings,. The staff seemed to overplay concerns about how some of these children could be released into the hands of human traffickers.

Finally, we discussed the damage that is being done to families and communities by deporting long-term members of our society and people from families of mixed immigration status.

The staff were clearly concerned about the plight of migrants. They also seemed to indicate that each of their Senators supported paths to citizenship for long-term undocumented migrants, even though I thought what they were willing to accept in return for sensible reform was too much. Finally, they were at a loss to understand what the administration would or would not accept on immigration reform. 

Loss of TPS might move El Salvador to the left

Jesse Acevedo published a post in the Monkey Cage several weeks ago that asked What will happen to El Salvador when the U.S. ends the protected status of Salvadoran immigrants? Acevedo argues that Salvadorans and citizens of other countries who lose remittances with the loss of TPS are likely to demand greater public services from their government.

Historically, remittance recipients used the cash inflows to satisfy their family's basic needs. As a result, they did not put much pressure on the government to redistribute resources. Governments also used remittances to their advantage as they could use it as an excuse to under-invest in their people. However, the Great Recession caused a change in citizen attitudes.
Before 2009, remittance recipients were 2 percent less likely to support redistribution than non-recipients. During the period of decline, remittance recipients began to show slightly greater support for redistribution than non-recipients.
By the time remittances recovered to pre-crisis levels in 2012, recipients became nearly 5 percent more likely to support redistribution. Even in 2014, five years after the recession, recipients continued to favor redistribution. The effect was strongest among remittance recipients without employment — those whose finances would be more sensitive to the drop in remittances from the United States.
Overall, it's tough to see how the loss of $1-2 billion in remittances will be good for El Salvador. However, with the people behind them, perhaps the FMLN will be more successful pressuring other political parties to support increased health and education investment. That, combined with other research that indicates Salvadorans who receive remittances tend to be more conservative could change future political preferences in the country.

US meddling in other countries’ elections comes in all shapes and sizes

Observing the 2004 election in Berlin
Scott Shane wrote in Sunday's New York Times about the United States' history of interfering in other countries' elections in Russia Isn’t the Only One Meddling in Elections. We Do It, Too. We shouldn't be surprised that Russia intervened in the 2016 election. However, we should be more angry that President Obama, Congress and others were unable to prevent the interference and that President Trump and today's Republicans in Congress feel little sense of urgency in preventing a repeat scenario in 2018.

Shane's article obviously is peppered with examples of US intervention in Latin American during the Cold War: Guatemala. Chile. Nicaragua. Some interventions were more covert than others. However, the US has continued to insert itself into Latin America's democratic elections in the post-Cold War period.

Tim Gill from University of North Carolina at Wilmington looks at US meddling in Latin American elections during the George W. Bush years in the Monkey Cage with Americans shouldn’t be shocked by Russian interference in the election. The U.S. does it, too. Gill argues that U.S. democracy promotion efforts carried out by "the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the International Republican Institute (IRI) play an immense role in influencing political outcomes throughout the world."
Three contemporary cases of U.S. “democracy promotion” expose that this practice is little more than outright interference in other countries’ elections, aimed not at ensuring functional democracies, but rather at installing governments friendly to U.S. interests. Rather than seeking to perpetuate democracy across the globe like a global superpower, the U.S. behaves like an imperial power that attempts to cultivate governments supporting U.S. economic and security interests, regardless of their democratic credentials.
Gill relies on U.S. evidence from elections in Venezuela, Bolivia, and Nicaragua. While Shane uses cases where U.S. intervention "succeeded," Gill's cases are of U.S. interventions that failed to achieve their goals - the electoral defeat of leftist political alternatives.

The U.S. has also intervened in post-Cold War Latin America through less systematic means, such as the 2004 presidential elections in El Salvador. That election pitted ARENA's Tony Saca against the FMLN's Schafik Handal. Members of the Bush administration, veterans of the Cold War, and Republican congressman all spoke out against Handal and the FMLN.

George Bush's brother Florida Governor Jeb Bush and other officials met with ARENA leaders in late 2003 and early 2004 to demonstrate who the US supported. The message was loud and clear in the Salvadoran press.

However, US support for the ARENA candidate did not stop at "we prefer that party because of its pro-capitalist and pro-democracy stances" (whatever), and its support for the US invasion of Iraq. US officials threatened to punish El Salvador by limiting remittances if they voted for the wrong candidate and party, Handal and the FMLN.

In a recent Research and Policy article, Roy Germano tries to estimate how threatening to cut off remittances affects voter preferences. He's interested in Trump's threats against Mexico, but he uses the 2004 election in El Salvador to approach the question.
What at first sounded like an observation turned into a threat on March 17, 2004 – four days before the presidential election – when US Representatives Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA),. Dan Burton (R-IN), and Tom Tancredo (R-CO) declared on the floor of the House of Representatives that an FMLN victory “could mean a radical change in United States policy as it pertains to the essentially free flow of remittances from Salvadorans living in the United States to El Salvador” (Burton, 2004; Rohrabacher, 2004; Tancredo, 2004).
Comparing the FMLN to a terrorist organization, Tancredo argued that if Handal were to win the presidency, “it may be necessary for the United States authorities to examine closely and possibly apply special controls to the flow of $2 billion in remittances from the United States to El Salvador.” This, as Tancredo put it, would be “to the detriment of many people living in El Salvador” (Tancredo, 2004).
In the end, Germano has a hard time finding evidence that the threats "changed the outcome" of the election or "remittance recipients to vote differently than non-recipients." In all likelihood, Saca was going to win anyway and remittance recipients were more likely to vote for the more conservative candidate anyway.

The failure to restore legal status to these individuals will have devastating consequences for recipients and their families and for El Salvador.

I have some thoughts on TPS and El Salvador in today's Inter-American Dialogue Latin American Advisor.
While the U.S. will ultimately be able to absorb the costs of its decision, El Salvador will have a much more difficult time. The Salvadoran government must simultaneously lobby the U.S. to reverse its decision while at the same time building out its institutions to support the reintegration of its people. 
You can read my comments as well as those from a few others here.

Bring on the spring semester

We have a 3 1/2 week winter intersession here at Scranton. I'm keeping busy teaching an online American Government class and an independent study on September 11, 2001 and Beyond. 

In addition, I am catching up on some chair work: revising our major, minor, and cognate requirements; investigating the possible addition of majors in Public Policy and Public Administration and Nonprofit Studies; developing a newsletter; scheduling some spring activities, including an alumni panel and a trip to Harrisburg; and encouraging and preparing students to present at a political science conference. 

I am also scheduling spring programming for The Ellacuria Initiative, including our April teach-in on Catholic Social Teaching and Northeastern Pennsylvania. 

I am organizing the next Jesuit Universities Humanitarian Action Network (JUHAN) conference for June 2019 to be held at Scranton.

I am working on two asylum cases involving individuals from El Salvador. 

Finally, I am still doing some committee work that doesn't stop when classes stop (Middle States, Examen, and Calendar committees).

I'm not finding much time for research this month, so instead I am reviewing some journal submissions and reading articles. I honestly have no idea how people have time to read books. I'm lucky to get through three or four books each year, in addition to whatever I am reading for class. 

Things never calm down when classes aren't in session but I can't complain.