Using a Few Billion to Pay Panama and Other Countries to Enforce Their Own Laws

By David North on October 13, 2021

Here’s an idea: Let’s pay Panama (and/or some other nearby country) a few billion to enforce their own immigration laws, and to give would-be illegal entrants to the U.S. plane rides back to their home countries.

I am a long way from the area, but I am pretty sure that breaking into a country — any country — is likely to be contrary to that nation’s laws.

The story, as dug up in stunning detail by my colleague Todd Bensmen, is that Panama and other countries along the way are simply opening their doors for entrances and subsequent departures for many out-of-continent aliens on their way to the U.S.-Mexico border. These nations might feel that these migrants are transients and that they are not going to depress any Central American economies, so why not let them through as they seek passage to the States?

Why should we, Panama and other countries seem to think, do the dirty work for those rich Americans?

My suggested approach to this serious problem is based on two quite different precedents, one totally American and bureaucratic and the other totally European and diplomatic.

The American one relates to how the government, in an open and honest way, decides how to spend money to solve a problem. Maybe the problem is that a bridge needs to be repaired, or maybe it is that the Marines need a new line of helicopters. As one who made his living doing government-funded immigration research for decades, I know what happens next.

The government then issues an RFP, or a request for proposals; those who think that they can solve the government’s problems for money are invited to submit a detailed proposal of their capabilities, their plans for the project, and a budget to get the job done. The government then picks the best deal and funds it. Sometimes there are detailed negotiations between the government and the winning contractor.

The competition I have in mind would be among the countries currently letting illegal aliens reach our southern border, notably Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico, reading from southeast to northwest. Each of those nations is in a position to block illegal aliens on their way to the U.S. and each has both a Caribbean coast and a Pacific one. The best checkpoints, as a glance at the map indicates, are Panama and Costa Rica, as these countries are narrower than the others. The two Central American countries not listed, El Salvador and Belize, do not qualify as they do not have the two seacoasts.

These six countries, then, would be encouraged to submit proposals regarding how they could do the job, and how much it would cost, assuming that the U.S. would not only pay the winning nation a large annual fee, but would also pick up the costs of flying the illegal aliens back to their home countries.

The nations, of course, would not be paid to cut off illegal aliens from our borders; they would be paid, by a grateful Uncle Sam, for simply enforcing their own laws. Who could argue with that?

The European precedent, unlike the RFP, is simplicity itself. The European Union decided to pay Turkey some six billion euros (about $7 billion) to cope with the Syrian and other refugees that flooded toward Europe in 2015. They did so, and though there were some leaks and some controversy, Turkey has largely done what it was paid to do.

Why can’t the U.S. do the same thing?

The Trump administration, through various threats and probably payments, made efforts to control migration from the Northern Triangle (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras) and made some progress along those lines; it did not face the through-traffic of more recent months.

The Biden administration barely admits that the non-continental illegal alien problem exists. It is willing to spend literally trillions of dollars on solving various domestic problems, but has shown no real interest in spending billions for the Central American law enforcement measures needed to prevent incidents such as the one at Del Rio from happening again.

There are some reasons for this. The Biden administration may worry about the optics of paying some unattractive governments to conduct law enforcement operations. But if the apparently largely clean European Union can pay the not very attractive Turkish government to do its bidding, why can’t the U.S. do the same thing?

It is possible, of course, that the six nations would agree among themselves not to participate in the RFP, but the lure of lots of U.S. dollars for little countries might well break up such unity. Can you see a desperate Nicaragua declining a flow of gold from the U.S.?

We would be simply paying the nation that won the RFP for enforcing its own laws, but it would take a lot of courage for America to do something as sensible as what the European Union has done. Is that courage available?