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Biden's Border Disaster

Wrongheaded State Department diplomacy in the Americas places a higher priority on “irregular” movement of illegal migrants than on respecting rule of law and national borders.

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(Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

As the 2024 Republican presidential nomination cycle heats up, GOP hopefuls need to pledge themselves to specific border-security measures. Our candidates need to be smart and informed on policy details. Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida set a good example with his recent remarks in Eagle Pass, Texas, but candidates also need to address undoing the Biden administration’s immigration mess. 

High on the long list of action items is reversing President Biden’s disastrous open-border diplomacy known as the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection. Too often overlooked, this declaration is Biden’s radical blueprint to transform migration policy for the entire Western Hemisphere. It was proclaimed last year at the Ninth Summit of the Americas and has become the Biden administration’s signature policy for Latin America and the Caribbean.  

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The State Department has used the declaration to strong-arm other governments across the Americas into discarding common-sense measures that protect national frontiers in favor of unrestricted movement of “irregular” migrants. Protecting borders was already difficult enough for governments in the Western Hemisphere; the Biden administration, in pursuit of accommodating unlawful migrants über alles, has made the situation much worse.  

It is all part of advancing the open-border Compacts on Migration and Refugees, finalized by the United Nations in 2018 to much fanfare among global elites. But political elites in Brussels are also encountering fierce resistance; opposition in Europe to accommodating illegal immigrants remains strong. Unfortunately, the situation is different in the Americas, as the Biden administration repudiated Trump-era policies while successfully pushing the ideology of the compacts across Latin America and the Caribbean.  

The first anniversary of the L.A. declaration was celebrated last week, fittingly at an international gathering at the World Bank in Washington. Secretary of State Antony Blinken lauded countries in the hemisphere for their “historic commitment to transform our region’s approach to migration.” Although the administration has neither Congressional authority nor any foundation in U.S. law for its actions, Blinken explained:

We’re committed to expanding other legal pathways, building on the success of initiatives like the innovative parole process that we’ve put in place for those migrating from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. We’re working with El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to match qualified workers to temporary job opportunities in the United States, and we hope to roll out similar efforts with other countries very soon. And we’re partnering with Mexico to increase opportunities for temporary workers to come to the United States.

The White House wants to convince the U.S. public that the Biden administration is responding to extraordinary phenomena that have produced a unique surge of international migrants. Their experts speak about unprecedented migratory “push” forces that are making downtrodden people everywhere pull up roots and claw their way to American borders. 

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In his remarks, Blinken asserted that currently 100 million migrants are moving around the globe, and there are “about 20 million” afoot in the Americas, constituting a “long-term phenomenon.” Of course, like DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Blinken has not one word to say about how Biden administration policies themselves are largely the engine of that movement. Instead, they obfuscate.   

Blinken attributes much of the chaos to “climate change,” which he fingers as one of the leading “root causes” for illegal migration. But the secretary of State has little new evidence to offer; extreme weather patterns in the region, such as tropical storms, hurricanes, and the El Niño phenomenon have caused havoc for decades. Despite the efforts of climate change alarmists to drum up this issue, the impact of weather events on migration is nothing new, and it certainly is minor in comparison to the effect of having Joe Biden, as opposed to Donald Trump, in the White House. 

Secretary Blinken does not explain, moreover, why climate change is forcing economic migrants to move thousands of miles and across oceans from Africa, the Middle East, and Eurasia, bypassing dozens of other safe countries, to appear precisely on the Rio Grande, where they can download the “CBP One app” on their latest iPhones to schedule their crossing at a U.S. port of entry.

In ballyhooing his other favorite root-cause themes—poverty, crime, and political upheaval—Blinken again has no new evidence to offer. In the Western Hemisphere, much-touted economic and political push factors have actually not appreciably changed in years.   

The macroeconomic picture for the region, although far from booming, is relatively unchanged even after accounting for the global pandemic. The situation today still compares favorably to past turbulent decades, which were far worse and never came close to creating 20 million migrants. 

Unemployment rates are actually trending downward, with the International Labor Organization reporting the region’s unemployment rate for 2022 at 7.2 percent. This number is actually significantly lower than that from 2019, before the Covid crisis, when it was registered at 8 percent.

While economic growth data for Latin America and the Caribbean indicate overall middling growth, the region is far from imploding, and again the statistics actually point to surprising stability: Central America and Mexico will expand 2 percent in 2023 (3.5 percent in 2022); the Caribbean, excluding Guyana, will grow 3.5 percent (5.8 percent in 2022); and South America 0.6 percent (versus 3.8 percent in 2022) – not particularly great, but past years in the region have been far worse, again without causing unprecedented illegal migration. 

The crime situation, a constant hemispheric concern, has also been relatively stable, and in some key migrant-sending countries even improving. As guerrilla conflicts have subsided in Colombia, homicide rates have plummeted and the numbers of internally displaced persons have steadily decreased. In violent Central America, there are also downward trends. Homicide rates and displaced person data for years has indicated overall steady declines in the sending countries of GuatemalaEl Salvador, and Honduras.  

Yes, crime continues unabated in Haiti, but high levels of violence have been that country’s reality for many years; and while crime doubtlessly drives Haitians to migrate, it is nothing new. A review of most data trends across the region indicates that there have been no new major crime patterns to account for massively boosting the number of migrants moving north.

Consider Mexico. According to Blinken’s push theory, the number of illegal Mexicans moving clandestinely across the U.S. border should have skyrocketed in recent years. By all accounts, Mexico has endured a decade of unprecedented cartel violence, but the bloody period has been marked by a declining rate of unlawful Mexican migration into the United States.  

The dislocation attributable to the hemisphere’s dysfunctional Marxist dictatorships—Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela—has also been a factor at play for decades. Perhaps Nicolás Maduro is today driving off more of his countrymen than ever before, as he continues to ruin Venezuela’s economy, but before Biden, most were content to flee to Colombia or Peru while the U.S. took its fair share and no more. Massive numbers of Venezuelans did not generally attempt to make the dangerous journey through the Darien Gap until the Biden administration came to office and ended American border security.

Very little in the L.A. Declaration speaks to the need for governments to protect their national frontiers, combat visa and residency fraud, or take similar security measures. This kind of law enforcement and border-security cooperation should be key elements of U.S. foreign policy in the region, but they are far from State Department priorities.

Yes, the declaration has throwaway language on thwarting human smuggling and trafficking rings, but foreign governments in the Americas—many with corrupt officials at the highest levels personally profiting from human smuggling and trafficking—know that the Biden-Blinken-Mayorkas team is not serious about law enforcement. For corrupt officials, the U.S. open-border ideology provides a golden opportunity to extort more illicit profits from migrants. When Secretary Blinken talks about “protecting” migrants, he is actually clueless. 

Republican presidential candidates who denounce Biden’s declaration will not only win GOP primary voters at home, but if their arguments are presented as common-sense policies, they can also send an important message to the 180 million middle-class citizens across the Americas who themselves actually want their countries to promote border integrity; for sure, many are appalled at Biden.  

Yes, regional elites, like Mexican President López Obrador, continue to preach open frontiers, but these voices do not speak for millions in Latin American and the Caribbean. The hemisphere is also home to national patriots who share our values and do not want their countries to be illegal migrant doormats. And that is particularly the case when these clandestine migrants come from outside the Americas.

In proposing fixes to Biden’s regional migration mess, GOP presidential candidates should recapture the foreign-policy spirit of President Herbert Hoover. It was Hoover – not Franklin Roosevelt – who initiated the Good Neighbor Policy with Latin America and the Caribbean; Hoover pledged Washington to reinforcing our common values of commerce, faith, and rule of law across the hemisphere.

In his day, President Hoover promoted an American foreign policy called “continentalism,” a Republican tradition of defending and building up our region. Hoover’s vision is still useful today. A new Republican president should not only repudiate Biden’s L.A. Declaration, but indicate that he will replace it with a new Washington-led policy of partnering with governments in the hemisphere to shut down illegal smuggling rings that are currently facilitating clandestine migration from Africa, the Middle East, and Eurasia into the Americas.  

Time is of the essence. An important first step is for Republican presidential candidates to pledge their willingness on January 20, 2025, to renounce Biden’s disastrous Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection.