Remember that advertising campaign launched by Jamaica a few decades ago, reminding Americans that “We’re more than a beach. We’re a country”? Lately it seems that the area’s islands are doing their best to reinforce this message, in the process presenting yet more reasons to doubt that President Biden’s policy of stemming immigration largely by addressing its “root causes” in the sending countries (especially in Central America’s “Northern Triangle”) will produce results in the policy- (and politics-relevant) future.
After all, in the last week alone, not only has Haiti lapsed into chaos again, but Cuba has been roiled by what are being described the biggest protests in decades against Communist rule. So undoubtedly heading state-side is looking especially attractive in those countries now. In addition, Venezuela keeps looking like a candidate for a political explosion (its migrant outflows have already been considerable for years as the left-wing regime’s policies keep destroying the economy).
Nor do these countries exhaust the list of deeply troubled countries whose inhabitants are increasingly flocking to the U.S.-Mexico border. As the Washington Post reported earlier this month, U.S. government data show that “From South America, the Caribbean, Asia and beyond tens of thousands of migrants bound for the United States have been arriving to Mexico each month.” Further, the shares represented by Mexico and Central America are going down, and those of nationals from “beyond” are going up. Many more migrants from regions further afield, moreover, are apparently on the way.
Indeed, in 2018, Gallup research found that more than 150 million adults worldwide want to live in the United States permanently. Of course, not every one will try to migrate. Nor does every one come from a homeland afflicted by various combinations of poverty, dictatorship, corruption, major disorder, and out-and-out conflict. But clearly most of them do. Meaning that there’s a massive amount of root causes out there to be addressed if that approach is to be the Biden strategy’s main pillar long term.
And it’s not like Washington has a great record in promoting the kind of nation-building (see, e.g., here) or even narrower economic development needed to root out those causes, or that lots more money – public or private – will be forthcoming (assuming that money is even the biggest obstacle to begin with). Heck – Americans haven’t even done a decent job of addressing the root causes of violence in many of their own inner cities.
Therefore, given the high and growing amount of turmoil in the United States’ backyard and beyond, to avoid swamping the nation with ever greater numbers of migrants, the Biden administration will need to return American policy to a border security-centric approach. It’s true that both Vice President and immigration point person Kamala Harris and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas have both publicly warned not to try to enter the country.
But this message clearly has been drowned out by dozens of other administration decisions that de facto put out the welcome mat (see, e.g., here) – including a virtual halt to interior enforcement that supercharges the odds that newcomers who make it into the United States will be able to stay in the United States. Which is why the longer the current Biden policy mix lasts, the more the root causes dimension of his administration’s immigration strategy looks like a dodge aimed at greasing the skids for much wider border opening.