Congress Blog

Rep. Beyer: What I learned In Central America

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill

Last week I traveled with colleagues to Central America's Northern Triangle - Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador - where we spent five days meeting with heads of state, law enforcement, business leaders, U.S. ambassadors and diplomatic staff, USAID officials, and working people.

The trip, organized by Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware, was highly informative, particularly given the ongoing debate over immigration policy, temporary protected status (TPS), trade, and other related issues.

I think my fellow travelers - Sens. Carper and Jeff Merkley (Ore.) and Reps. Lisa Blunt Rochester (Del.), Lou Correa (Calif.), and Donald Norcross (N.J.) - would agree that what we saw and heard was both depressing and encouraging.

It is clear that the top mission of our U.S. presence in these countries is changing the conditions which drive irregular migration attempts to the United States. We are attacking the corruption, especially within the governments, which undermines citizen confidence that their countries will progress.  We are training police forces to deal with both gang violence and narcotics trafficking, with significant reductions in the murder rates in all three countries.  And we are investing in the conditions necessary for economic growth, especially the training of young people for jobs that pay much more than the minimum wage.

Our top concern was the decline in presidential support for U.S. initiatives to support economic growth and improved security in the region, and the naive idea that a wall on a border more than a thousand miles north will be any disincentive for jobless people living in fear of violence. The notion that a wall would magically solve the complex problems which cause people to flee to the United States was not borne out by what we saw.

Instead, we saw again and again that when we help create conditions of the most modest prosperity, when we reduce the fear of imminent violence, and when folks believe things will get better, it greatly reduces people's desire to emigrate to the United States.

The most effective way for us to deal with unwanted immigration is to address the root causes in the developing economies of the Northern Triangle. We have already made a significant difference, but there is so much more we can and must do.

We should begin by shifting the useless waste of taxpayer funds in a silly border wall into greater investment into the Alliance for Prosperity, into our law enforcement efforts, and into diplomacy which will ensure ever less corrupt and more responsive governments.

My colleagues and I will be sharing these lessons with our colleagues this week, as Congress takes up a measure to reject the president's fake national emergency, and beyond it as we look for humane, practical solutions to improve our immigration system and our relationships with these nations.

Beyer represents Virginia's 8th District.

Outbrain