The meeting between Central American Presidents and US Vice President Joe Biden to deal with the crisis of “unaccompanied alien children” (UAC) from that region illustrated the sides remain far apart on policy prescription and how to finance a plan to help stem the flow of migrants northwards.
The meeting, sponsored and hosted by the Inter American Development Bank in Washington DC on November 13, held all the romance of an arranged marriage.
On the one side was Biden, who announced kids in Central America with parents legally in the US could apply for asylum — an arduous, expensive and time-consuming process that few would likely try.
On the other side were President Juan Orlando Hernandez of Honduras, President Otto Perez Molina of Guatemala, and President Salvador Sanchez Ceren of El Salvador. The three had arrived with an ambitious plan long on buzz words but short on actual details of how to finance what they admit are long-term solutions.
President Hernandez told Reuters in an interview that he was seeking $2 billion, the same as Guatemala. Biden, meanwhile, promised no additional funding for any programs.
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Whether you think the UAC come because of economic pressure, family reasons or to flee their crime ridden nations, there are few grounds for believing that the meeting addressed any of those dynamics.
To cite just one example, in a statement, the US State Department said the limit of the number of children and accompanying parents that can be admitted under program Biden announced is 4,000 during the fiscal year that ends September 30, 2015; over 60,000 UAC have been stopped at the US border this year.
For its part, the Central American Presidents’ plan is comprehensive, wide-ranging and holistic. But offers no new means of financing. There is no talk of new taxes or any other drastic measures to produce the type of changes necessary to slow the flow of migration. Instead, the presidents turn to the US and other “allies, multilateral institutions and regional development partners.”
“It’s clear the resources needed to implement the development objectives in this Plan exceed our financial capacity, as well as our ability to finance it via loans,” the Northern Triangle governments wrote.
As if to put an exclamation point on their lack of money, they offer an outline of the plan, with potential funders, and leave it completely blank (see below).
What’s more, the Northern Triangle presidents seem oblivious to the current US political reality: the Republican Congress set to take control next year is even less inclined to send money to them than this outgoing Congress, which never authorized anything in spite of the flood of unaccompanied children.