Last week, the United States and Mexico co-hosted the Conference on Prosperity and Security in Central America in Miami. Throughout the conference, prosperity and security in the region were recognized as an antidote to illegal immigration. An op-ed jointly authored by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, and the president of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) presents a similar argument by alluding to the potential success of the Alliance for Prosperity Plan.
The Alliance for Prosperity Plan aims to reduce migrants' incentives to leave their countries by prioritizing a cause-based approach to address illegal immigration. The plan was first introduced by Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador in November 2014 and has been partially subsidized through funds allocated for U.S. foreign assistance in the region.
The op-ed poses the following question: "International donors and the international community — particularly the United States — have provided billions of dollars to aid these migrants. But what if comparatively smaller sums were used to keep these humanitarian crises from happening in the first place?"
In December 2015, the U.S. Congress allocated $750 million in the 2016 budget for development assistance for Central America within the Alliance for Prosperity Plan. In FY 2017, Congress included a reduced amount of $655 million, and the Trump administration's FY 2018 budget request further reduces the amount to $460 million.
The U.S. secretaries and IDB president defend the Plan's potential success by referencing the success of "Plan Colombia". By comparison, Plan Colombia aimed to curb the supply of drugs through the implementation of various anti-drug policies in the South American country,
Contrary to what many initially predicted, Plan Colombia worked, as three consecutive Colombian administrations showed strong political will and carried out a sustained program to dismantle the cartels, increase security, and foster economic activity. Today, millions of Colombians are committed to making their country a better place to live, work and raise their families.
We believe a similar strategy can work in Central America. ... this plan seeks to help El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras achieve what Colombia has — to regain control over territory, end the cycle of violence, corruption and impunity, win the confidence of investors, and create conditions for sustained and inclusive economic growth.
The Trump Administration is committed to making this initiative a pillar of its broader strategy to combat illegal immigration by creating conditions for shared security and economic growth across the hemisphere.
This preventive approach is a long-term solution. Any potential development in the region, and subsequent reduction of illegal immigration, will take time. However, this long term approach, coupled with the Trump administration's return to immigration enforcement, is a step toward rectifying years of unsustainable immigration policies, which incentivized illegal immigration.