News Release

Is Biden Obscuring Root Causes of Migration?

CommonDreams reports: “Outrage as Biden Says Fate of Immigration Reform Is ‘For the Parliamentarian to Decide.’

AVIVA CHOMSKY, achomsky@salemstate.edu
    Chomsky is professor of history and coordinator of Latin American studies at Salem State University in Massachusetts. Her new book is Central America’s Forgotten History: Revolution, Violence, and the Roots of Migration.

    She just wrote the piece “Migration Is Not the Crisis: What Washington Could Really Do in Central America” for TomDispatch: “Earlier this month, a Honduran court found David Castillo, a U.S.-trained former Army intelligence officer and the head of an internationally financed hydroelectric company, guilty of the 2016 murder of celebrated Indigenous activist Berta Cáceres. His company was building a dam that threatened the traditional lands and water sources of the Indigenous Lenca people. For years, Cáceres and her organization, the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, or COPINH, had led the struggle to halt that project. It turned out, however, that Cáceres’s international recognition — she won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize in 2015 — couldn’t protect her from becoming one of the dozens of Latin American Indigenous and environmental activists killed annually.

    “Yet when President Joe Biden came into office with an ambitious ‘Plan for Security and Prosperity in Central America,’ he wasn’t talking about changing policies that promoted big development projects against the will of local inhabitants. Rather, he was focused on a very different goal: stopping migration. His plan, he claimed, would address its ‘root causes.’ Vice President Kamala Harris was even blunter when she visited Guatemala, instructing potential migrants: ‘Do not come.'”As it happens, more military and private development aid of the sort Biden’s plan calls for (and Harris boasted about) won’t either stop migration or help Central America. It’s destined, however, to spark yet more crimes like Cáceres’s murder. There are other things the United States could do that would aid Central America. The first might simply be to stop talking about trying to end migration. …

    “It’s true that Central America is indeed plagued by poverty, violence, and corruption, but if Biden were willing to look at the root causes of his root causes, he might notice that his aren’t the solutions to such problems, but their source. …

    “We could undo the harmful provisions of the 2005 Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). Yes, Central American governments beholden to Washington did sign on to it, but that doesn’t mean that the agreement benefited the majority of the inhabitants in the region. In reality, what CAFTA did was throw open Central American markets to U.S. agricultural exports, in the process undermining the livelihoods of small farmers there. …”