Saturday, June 23, 2018 | 2 a.m.
In a speech this week to a business group, President Donald Trump said he planned to take action against the home countries of immigrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border.
“Think of all that aid that we give to these countries,” he said. “Hundreds of millions of dollars we give to some of these countries, and they send them (immigrants) up.
“Well, I’m going to go very shortly for authorization that when countries abuse us by sending people up — not their best — we’re not going to give any more aid to those countries. Why the hell should we? Why should we?”
Well, Mr. Trump, given that you’re scheduled to be visiting Las Vegas today, we’re happy to give you an answer to that question.
Why the hell should we? Because if we help those countries address the violence and poverty that are driving their citizens to the north, we can hit at the root of the problem instead of punishing the innocent families who collectively embody one of its symptoms, that’s why.
We’ll explain this to you, Mr. Trump, because you’re either completely clueless about what’s happening or you are trafficking in deliberately ugly lies: With few exceptions, the people who are coming to our border aren’t being “sent” by anybody, and they’re not undesirables.
They’re families fleeing horrific situations. Drug cartels, street gangs, economic strife and rampant political corruption have combined to create a human rights crisis in a number of Central American countries, leaving their citizens scrambling to extricate themselves.
Just look at the numbers. El Salvador, with 60 murders per 100,000 people in 2017, was the deadliest place on earth that was not at war. The death toll was at a staggering 4,000 people in a country of 6.3 million. (Compare that, Mr. Trump, with an American city you frequently describe as overrun with violence — Chicago. El Salvador’s murder rate was nearly 70 percent higher.) In Honduras, the murder rate was 42 per 100,000.
So for the people of those nations, Mr. Trump, leaving is a matter of life or death, hope or oppressive fear.
People don’t uproot their families for fun. They don’t want to make a journey that they know will be treacherous to a place where they’ll face an uncertain future, anymore than you would.
These are people who have experienced the breakdown of order. They want law enforcement, they want justice, they want education, they want employment opportunities and they want a civilized society. They’re exactly the kind of citizens a nation wants.
If you truly want to stop the flow of refugees, stop the drug trade and make the world a better place, Mr. Trump. Actively engage in helping the countries that can’t handle the cartels to defeat them.
This is what presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush did with Colombia to help break the traffickers there, which has led to nearly 20 years of a renaissance in that nation.
We should send troops to help struggling governments — if they ask, of course — and provide economic incentives to defeat the cartels. This approach would be cheaper than a wall and is a long-term solution. The U.S. could start with smaller countries — Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador — and keep working from there. We should also collaborate with Mexico.
Not only would this help reduce the flow of refugees, but shoring up the other countries in our hemisphere would help create secure middle classes who will become customers for our goods.
The outcome? Victimized populations become secure, unstable governments become democratic trading partners and the U.S. drug trade gets destroyed.
At our best, America was the nation that made the world a safer place. We extended virtuous power globally, then came up with plans to reconstruct the ruins of war and violence. This allowed us to return to our shores without fears of waves of refugees, knowing the foreign lands we had occupied had been placed on a civilized path forward.
So, why the hell would we help?
Because, Mr. Trump, stepping up to end the problem, not attacking the symptoms, is what a real leader would do.