More than two years ago, Vice President Kamala Harris launched her “root causes” strategy to stem the flow of illegal migration from Central America into the United States. At the core of her initiative was a $1 billion foreign aid program that was intended to alleviate the poverty the administration blamed for driving millions of illegal immigrants to the U.S. from the region.
The initiative, however, has failed to halt continued historic levels of migration, demonstrating that maintaining secure physical barriers, enforcing immigration laws, and reviving regional border agreements are the required tools to stem illegal migration and its accompanying drug trafficking and human trafficking.
Since February 2021, the administration has sought to discourage millions of Central Americans from making the dangerous trek into the United States. Its root causes strategy counted upon mobilizing mostly American foreign investment in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, from where millions of migrants originate, and “create jobs for one million individuals by 2032.”
Earlier this year, Ms. Harris claimed that $4.2 billion in private sector commitments was made in the region as proof that the administration’s policies are working.
Our research team at The Heritage Foundation looked more closely into these numbers and found them to be deceptive. All the alleged investments are commitments, not finalized deals, expressing an intent to invest, a far cry from actual investments.
We spoke to several of the companies mentioned by the administration, and they told us that most of their projects cited had already been underway and are unrelated to the administration’s strategy.
Even the administration’s basic math is off. Let’s concede that they might generate 100,000 jobs per year over 10 years in the region as the strategy asserts. But it would still not be enough to absorb the 200,000 people who enter the job market in Guatemala alone, a country that generates only 30,000 jobs annually. Add hundreds of thousands more from both Honduras and El Salvador, and it clearly becomes a challenge we cannot win through aid programs.
Another reality check: These countries receive tens of billions of dollars in overseas remittances, mostly from their citizens working in the United States legally and illegally. These funds fuel Central America’s economies and dwarf the amount of foreign aid the countries receive. This financial bonanza—totaling about 25% of their gross domestic product—is a key disincentive for the governments of the region to adopt pro-growth economic policies that can generate the long-term job creation that changes a migrant’s calculus of whether to leave home to find work.
Worse, we found that the administration could not resist misusing foreign aid to reward its radical political base and attack the region’s religious and traditional norms concerning marriage, life and sexuality as part of its massive global campaign to direct billions of taxpayer dollars to fund social reengineering programs.
The U.S. Agency for International Development is training hundreds of political leaders on gender identity and sexual orientation and promoting intersex legal reforms. The U.S. government is funding CARE International’s $50 million regional center to promote “gender equity” in Central America. CARE defines gender as “nonbinary.”
Central American judges now use a “gender perspective” in legal cases. Polling in Central America shows—unsurprisingly—that the area’s residents emigrate for economic reasons, not because of gender identity and discrimination. As China makes deep economic inroads throughout the Western Hemisphere, why would we want to alienate our neighbors?
Guatemala, for example, is one of our most reliable global partners aligning with the United States against China, supporting Ukraine against Russian aggression, and recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. It boasts being “the pro-life capital of Latin America.” Nevertheless, this administration pushes Guatemala to adopt its anti-life dogma.
Amid debt ceiling talks and budget cuts, Congress has an opportunity today to stop wasting taxpayer dollars and decouple foreign aid from border security and cut funding for ideology-driven aid programs that benefit only China.
This piece originally appeared in The Washington Times