Yet American politicians have shown little interest in devoting resources to address the underlying reasons Central Americans continue to head north. They include gang violence, chronic poverty, high unemployment and weak government institutions. Last year, Obama administration officials studied closely where the most recent migrants were coming from in drawing up a plan to improve the region’s economies and curb violence.
The Obama administration asked Congress for $1 billion for the effort, arguing that the border crisis last year underscored the severity of problems in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, the countries where most of the migrants come from.
Last week, congressional appropriators in the House of Representatives marking up the bill that allocates foreign aid set aside less than $300 million for Central America. The lion’s share of the financing was approved for security initiatives. That is extremely shortsighted.
The United States can afford to play a bigger, more constructive role in helping Central American nations. Letting the problems fester will inevitably mean that people seeking safety and a better life will keep heading north in large numbers, which will continue to drive up the cost of keeping them out.