President Biden can't just throw money at Central America and hope its impoverished citizens will stop coming north to the U.S.-Mexico border. That's the conclusion drawn by University of California Hastings Law School Professor Naomi Roht-Arriaga, in a perceptive article written for an obscure political website, "Just Security."
"Simply pouring money (Biden has pledged $4 billion for Central America) into countries with corrupt administrations, legislatures, judiciaries and elites will amount to little more than refilling a leaky bucket," Arriaga wrote, and she's 100 percent correct. Unfortunately, we frequently throw our money at corrupt nations – that's what the U.S. Agency for International Development often does – and hope those nations will reform themselves, but they never do.
I was a witness to rampant corruption during the 20-plus years I lived and worked in Latin America, and my friend and fellow Foreign Service retiree Fred LaSor saw endemic corruption during the many years he lived and worked in Africa. He reminded me that "USAID is heavily staffed with lawyers and accountants, who can swear to Congress that the money is being spent effectively," whether it is or not.
For her part, Arriaga wrote that the $4 billion Biden promised to spend to improve life for Central Americans "will have to be carefully managed to avoid simply being sucked into the kleptocracy machine." The Biden administration says it will "aim to funnel the funding to reliable partners and require transparency in accounting as well as progress on anti-corruption measures." Well, good luck with that.
So who will be responsible for keeping an eye on those billions of taxpayer dollars? Biden chose Vice President Kamala Harris to keep track of the money because "she's the most qualified person to do it." Oh really? Harris, who has little to no previous experience in dealing with Central America, welcomed the opportunity learn more about that part of the world.
"There is no question that this (Biden's border crisis) is a challenging situation," Harris said. "While we are clear that people should not come to the border NOW (my emphasis) … we will enforce the law" while addressing "the root causes that cause people to make that (dangerous and risky) trek." But surely she knows that if you post a big Welcome Sign, they'll keep coming to our southern border in droves.
Biden tells us the border is closed and secure, but those of us who have eyes and a brain know the border is open and insecure because we can see poverty-stricken migrants – especially unaccompanied minors – pouring across the border in record numbers.
Texas border blogger Tayler Hansen, who calls himself the "Gateway Pundit," noted that "illegal border crossings totaled over 100,000 in February," Biden's first full month in office. "Instead of kids in cages, Joe Biden took the much less suspicious approach of kids in shipping containers," he added. Thousands of unaccompanied minors are being housed in shipping containers because they've overwhelmed border facilities to house them. That's why many of them, including young Central American gang-bangers and some with COVID-19, are being released into border communities and across the nation.
Brownsville, Texas city officials said more than 100 COVID-positive immigrants have been released into their border city, and Democratic Congressman Henry Cueller, who represents a border district, told Newsweek that "nearly 2,000 (illegal) migrants have been released into the U.S. without documents requiring them to appear in immigration courts." This practice is called "catch and release," an obvious result of the Biden administration's "open borders" policies.
How bad can it get? Much worse. Count on it!
Retired diplomat Guy W. Farmer is the Appeal's senior political columnist.