The nation's distribution of moneys from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has never been designed to cope with our illegal immigration problems — it should be in the new administration.
This proposal is in line with others we have made in this series, suggesting, for example, that the Diversity Visa Lottery program should be adjusted to relieve the pressures on our southern border presented by would-be entrants from the Northern Triangle countries of Central America (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras).
The general idea is that, without increasing our already stunning flow of legal migrants (more than one million each and every year) and without spending large additional sums of federal money, we can use existing visa and financial resources to seek to increase the prosperity of those parts of the Northern Triangle that produce the largest number of would-be illegal migrants to the U.S.
In 2019, before the Trump administration started to cut, sharply, the USAID allocations around the world, they included, among others, the following:
- Israel: $3.308 billion
- Egypt: $1.468 billion
- Guatemala: $157 million
- El Salvador: $85 million
- Honduras $71 million
Much of the money goes for military aid to the first two on the list. Were one to nibble away at the first two allocations on the order of 6 percent, that would produce savings of close to $300 million. If those moneys were transferred to the Northern Triangle that would double the level of economic assistance for those nations.
The new money should be invested in leverage programs that will increase the economic activity and the family incomes in those parts of the three countries that produce the most would-be illegal migrants to our country. As little as possible should be spent on American experts, which is a recurring problem with these operations. As much as possible should be spent on, for example, improving coffee yields, extending computer connections to rural areas, and on labor-intensive infrastructure projects such as irrigation and flood control. More resources for public health would be useful as well.
Further, as my son, Rodney, a veteran of two decades in the coffee business, and I suggested in 2019, the U.S. government, instead of buying coffee from all over the world, should focus its purchases on the excellent coffee produced in the Northern Triangle, and do it in such a way that raw coffee bean prices will increase. Similarly, though this might take legislation, it could create tax incentives for private purchasers of coffee to buy from this part of the world.
These measures would only marginally impact the retail cost of coffee, but it would help keep Central Americans out of harm's way, and away from the Rio Grande. That would be good for all of us.
North, now a resident of Arlington, Va., was his party's candidate for Congress in New Jersey's Fifth District more than 60 years ago and was, later, assistant to the chairman of the Democratic National Committee and worked on immigration policy in the LBJ White House.