Category Archives: US-LA Relations

I would rather pursue policies that brings the US and region closer together.



Initially, I thought that President Trump's call for a border wall could simply be interpreted as a call for greater border security. However, it doesn't really look like that is the case. Sure, he wants more border patrol agents but it is hard to link them to security either because, in terms of apprehensions, the ones we have are not very busy.
Even with apprehensions at low levels, the President wants to increase the number of agents. For several years now, however, the US has had a very difficult time maintaining current staffing levels, let alone increasing them. After winning a $297 million contract, Accenture has been able to fill two of 5,000 border patrol positions they were hired for. Fortunately, they have only received a few million dollars so far. CBP seems to have already lowered its standards and still can't hire what the president wants.
  
And then there is the comic that started this post. President Trump wants a wall or fence or something he can call a wall. He might or might not want it to cross the entire 2,000 mile border. However, it's not as simple as building a wall. For the wall to be effective, the US would need to extend roads for the length of the wall. That way agents would be able to patrol the wall in order to apprehend those going over, or under, it. Such an initiative would probably require a great deal more agents than we already have. You would probably need to establish outposts as well, perhaps where agents could stay for a few days. Plus, it's not as if you just build the wall and walk away. The wall and roads would require significant resources each year to maintain.

Much of the border land is owned by US citizens and tribes. Either it'll be very expensive to purchase the land or those who own it have no interest in selling it. Some of the ranchers I've met with outside Nogales moved out to the border area decades ago to get away from the federal government. They are not really interested in more government now.

When reporters looked at this issue around the 2016 election, the company best positioned to provide supplies for the wall would be CEMEX, which probably wouldn't go over too well with President Trump or the Mexican people.

Then there are the environmental costs related to the material used to build and maintain the wall. Migratory patterns would be disrupted and wildlife would suffer. In general, people living along the border don't want additional walls. 

I honestly don't get why President Trump wants to make enemies of our neighbors and allies. His misunderstanding of the causes and consequences of migration are really powerful. For me, I would rather pursue policies that bring the US and region closer together. That, however, will have to wait until another administration takes office in the White House.

Mexico considering $30 billion Central American investment to stop migrant crisis — US should, too

I have an op-ed with The Hill arguing that the US should provide greater attention and resources to the humanitarian crisis in Central America.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is considering a plan to invest $30 billion over the next five years to promote development in Central America’s Northern Triangle of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. The plan’s details are still unsettled but investing in Central America, and even southern Mexico, to reduce the number of people who feel that they have no choice but to leave the region is worth the investment.
Central America's political and economic development needs to be more of a priority. This plan might not address the needs of the millions of people who have already left and are in transit somewhere in Mexico or awaiting asylum hearings in the United States, which should also be addressed. A few million dollars here and there with little follow-through has not cut it. The United States should work with its Mexican and Central American partners to address the immediate and long-term needs of those living amidst a humanitarian crises.
Given the cast of characters now occupying the highest elected office in the United States, Mexico, and Central America's Northern Triangle, I'm skeptical about a truly transformative initiative. However, several opportunities for cooperation on mutually beneficial policies do exist.

You can read my thoughts here

Mexico considering $30 billion Central American investment to stop migrant crisis — US should, too

I have an op-ed with The Hill arguing that the US should provide greater attention and resources to the humanitarian crisis in Central America.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is considering a plan to invest $30 billion over the next five years to promote development in Central America’s Northern Triangle of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. The plan’s details are still unsettled but investing in Central America, and even southern Mexico, to reduce the number of people who feel that they have no choice but to leave the region is worth the investment.
Central America's political and economic development needs to be more of a priority. This plan might not address the needs of the millions of people who have already left and are in transit somewhere in Mexico or awaiting asylum hearings in the United States, which should also be addressed. A few million dollars here and there with little follow-through has not cut it. The United States should work with its Mexican and Central American partners to address the immediate and long-term needs of those living amidst a humanitarian crises.
Given the cast of characters now occupying the highest elected office in the United States, Mexico, and Central America's Northern Triangle, I'm skeptical about a truly transformative initiative. However, several opportunities for cooperation on mutually beneficial policies do exist.

You can read my thoughts here

The United States accepts no responsibility for those fleeing for their lives.

Meridith Kohut for The New York Times
“If the police don’t eradicate crime in El Salvador, and the United States cuts the funding, the gangs will take over my country — even more than they currently do,” he said. “More people would try to escape, running away from crime, to save their lives.”
Ali Watkins and Meridith Kohut explore the difficult relationship shared by the United States and El Salvador in A Conflicted War: MS-13, Trump and America’s Stake in El Salvador’s Security for the New York Times. After having just finished The Salvador Option, it's awful to see so many parallels with the 1980s.

The United States is deeply involved in helping to improve El Salvador's capacity to tackle gang violence. It is training police, soldiers, prosecutors, and judges. It is funding forensics labs and prisons. It is pushing community policing efforts. The homicide rate has decreased but it is difficult to assess the impact of the United States' contributions to Salvadoran security.

Security units with whom the United States has worked continue to commit human rights abuses. Some will say because of US training while others will say in spite of its training. At times, these units effectively carry out missions based upon US training "But at other times, they struggled to complete assignments and were openly skeptical of their own system." Thirty-seven years to the day after the El Mozote massacre, the parallels to the Atlacatl Battalion are hard to miss. The United States provided basic training to El Salvador's elite unit in 1981 but they threw what they had learned out the window and then reverted to what cruelty they had been committing prior to US training.

Like the 1980s, the US government in Washington and in San Salvador are at odds with each other. The US Ambassador to El Salvador says that officials in San Salvador cannot be distracted by what the President says. That is no way to run the foreign service.
The president has claimed that he is deporting Salvadoran migrants at a record pace, that asylum-seekers are flooding American borders and that the Salvadoran government is not doing anything to help. But according to data the State Department presented this year to Salvadoran leaders, the number of citizens fleeing and the number getting deported back have decreased significantly.
Jean Elizabeth Manes, the United States ambassador to El Salvador, said American officials there aren’t distracted by Mr. Trump’s remarks. “We stay focused on what the end goal is,” she said.
The mixed messages can be dangerous. President Trump is warning that criminals are overrunning the US southern border and that it might be permissible to shoot them. In some ways, he is following El Salvador's lead where its political leaders have given the impression that it is permissible to shoot first and ask questions later, if at all. Like the 1980s, Salvadorans are fleeing a war in which the US is deeply involved. However, the United States accepts no responsibility for those fleeing for their lives.

The United States accepts no responsibility for those fleeing for their lives.

Meridith Kohut for The New York Times
“If the police don’t eradicate crime in El Salvador, and the United States cuts the funding, the gangs will take over my country — even more than they currently do,” he said. “More people would try to escape, running away from crime, to save their lives.”
Ali Watkins and Meridith Kohut explore the difficult relationship shared by the United States and El Salvador in A Conflicted War: MS-13, Trump and America’s Stake in El Salvador’s Security for the New York Times. After having just finished The Salvador Option, it's awful to see so many parallels with the 1980s.

The United States is deeply involved in helping to improve El Salvador's capacity to tackle gang violence. It is training police, soldiers, prosecutors, and judges. It is funding forensics labs and prisons. It is pushing community policing efforts. The homicide rate has decreased but it is difficult to assess the impact of the United States' contributions to Salvadoran security.

Security units with whom the United States has worked continue to commit human rights abuses. Some will say because of US training while others will say in spite of its training. At times, these units effectively carry out missions based upon US training "But at other times, they struggled to complete assignments and were openly skeptical of their own system." Thirty-seven years to the day after the El Mozote massacre, the parallels to the Atlacatl Battalion are hard to miss. The United States provided basic training to El Salvador's elite unit in 1981 but they threw what they had learned out the window and then reverted to what cruelty they had been committing prior to US training.

Like the 1980s, the US government in Washington and in San Salvador are at odds with each other. The US Ambassador to El Salvador says that officials in San Salvador cannot be distracted by what the President says. That is no way to run the foreign service.
The president has claimed that he is deporting Salvadoran migrants at a record pace, that asylum-seekers are flooding American borders and that the Salvadoran government is not doing anything to help. But according to data the State Department presented this year to Salvadoran leaders, the number of citizens fleeing and the number getting deported back have decreased significantly.
Jean Elizabeth Manes, the United States ambassador to El Salvador, said American officials there aren’t distracted by Mr. Trump’s remarks. “We stay focused on what the end goal is,” she said.
The mixed messages can be dangerous. President Trump is warning that criminals are overrunning the US southern border and that it might be permissible to shoot them. In some ways, he is following El Salvador's lead where its political leaders have given the impression that it is permissible to shoot first and ask questions later, if at all. Like the 1980s, Salvadorans are fleeing a war in which the US is deeply involved. However, the United States accepts no responsibility for those fleeing for their lives.