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What happened to Kamala’s push to fix ‘root causes’ of border crisis?

The Biden administration assured us that addressing the “root causes” of illegal immigration would solve the problem (not a crisis!) at the border.

The thinking was that as people had more opportunities in their own countries, fewer would want to leave.


It should be clear by now that the focus on root causes was just a PR stunt, to make it appear as though the administration were responding constructively to the border crisis without actually, you know, enforcing the law.

Vice President Kamala Harris, the Root Causes Czarina, announced in February investment promises by some corporations for the Northern Triangle countries of Central America (El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras), that send many illegal immigrants north.

I suppose an “online learning platform” and “microloans to female entrepreneurs” might help some people, but the press release uses the words “commit” or “commitment” 30 times in a four-page document, literally in every paragraph, highlighting the fact the root-causes push is what in the tech industry they call vaporware — all press release and no substance.

In 2022, there were nearly 2.4 million arrests of illegal immigrants at the southwest border.

But even if the vice president were competent, there’s no way the root-causes approach could ever be a substitute for actually enforcing the border.

Vice President Biden himself was Obama’s Root Causes Czar, and things have only gotten worse since then.

There are several reasons the root-causes approach is no substitute for muscular border and immigration enforcement.

First of all, it’s not clear development aid actually does any good.

Industrialized countries have transferred trillions to the developing world in aid over the past 60 to 70 years, and while there have been some successes, generally it does more harm than good.

Much of the money is siphoned off by international organizations and kleptocratic governments, and the top-down projects are often irrelevant, at best.

Let’s say, though, our assistance could work.

Economic development is a long, drawn-out process.

It’s true that given enough time, economic development will indeed lessen the pressure to move abroad.

Norway, for instance, sent fully 10% of its population to the United States in the 19th century and now is a developed country few people leave. 

But hoping that a century from now people in Latin America won’t feel the need to move to the United States is not a meaningful border strategy.

Mexico is decades, maybe generations, ahead of its Central American neighbors economically — its per capita gross domestic product is more than triple that of Honduras.

And yet it continues to send thousands of illegal migrants north.

How long are we supposed to wait for the border crisis to subside on its own?

In fact, researchers have found that as a country starts on the road to economic development, the number of people who want to leave increases before it eventually tapers off.

Development creates disruptions that can cut people loose from established patterns and cause them to look abroad.

Kamala Harris
Vice President Kamala Harris announced in February investment promises by some corporations for the Northern Triangle countries of Central America that send many illegal immigrants north.
Mike Kropf/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP

Also, it raises expectations faster than they can be met locally, again prompting people to want to migrate.

Finally, the root-causes strategy is doomed to fail because there’s a whole world of potential illegal border-jumpers beyond the three Central American countries the Biden-Harris administration focused on.

In fiscal year 2022, there were nearly 2.4 million arrests of illegal immigrants at the southwest border — but only a little more than half a million were from those three target countries.

There are still plenty of illegal migrants from those countries — some 200,000 so far this fiscal year.

But because President Biden has effectively invited all the world’s people to cross our borders, people from all over are responding.

Many of those are from elsewhere in Latin America — Cuba, Peru, Venezuela and more.

But the number of Chinese border-jumpers, for instance, while still low compared with Central America, is growing fast; the number apprehended in March was 22 times greater than in March 2022.

I myself, on a recent trip to the border, encountered a family from Angola and a group from the republic of Georgia.

Illegal immigration has become so internationalized, as it were, that there’s now a Muslims-only migrant shelter in Tijuana, two blocks from the border wall.

Are we supposed to fix the root causes of migration everywhere in the world?

Is the Biden-Harris administration’s border strategy to hope that all nations of the world will reach parity with Norway?

Wouldn’t it make more sense to rescind Biden’s invitation to the hundreds of millions of people who want to move here and just enforce our immigration laws?

Mark Krikorian is executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies.

This story originally appeared on NYPost

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