Marshall Plan for the Northern Triangle?

There are two general views on how best to address the illegal immigration crisis the United States is facing on its southern border, notably as it relates to the tens of thousands of child migrants who have been arriving in the US from the "Northern Triangle" countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras during the past few months.

The first one focuses on securing the US border with Mexico by completing construction of a wall along the full stretch. The wall that currently exists covers only 700 of the total 2,000 miles of the frontier. This view also calls for dramatically increasing the number of border guards and aerial drones, and even calling up elements of the US armed forces to help keep watch. Governor Rick Perry of Texas, for example, is now deploying up to 1,000 of his National Guard troops to the border.

It's called deterrence... "If we make it difficult enough for the migrants to enter the US, they'll stay in their own countries where they belong."

Naturally, a key part of this view is that all migrants should be swiftly deported. The problem with this view is that it assumes that desperate people can be deterred.

The second view focuses more on trying to deal with the reasons the migrants are leaving their countries in the first place -- the severe structural social and economic problems that have encouraged the mass migration north. A big one, of course, being the growth of the drug trafficking industry due to US consumer demand, and the crime and violence it has fueled.

This view, which calls for greater US government assistance to the Salvadoran, Guatemalan, and Honduran governments, was perhaps best summed up last week by Honduran Foreign Minister Mireya Aguero, who said, "It's much more practical for the United States to launch a mini-Marshall plan, as they did after World War Two, to create opportunities and really get to the root of the problem in Central American countries that is fueling migration."

It's a sure bet that the second view is the one that will be offered by President Juan Orlando Hernández when he meets with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in Washington, D.C., on Friday. President Hernández has been extremely vocal in the past few months about the need for the US to own up more to its responsibility for helping cause the flood of migrants.

When seven members of the US Congress visited Honduras last week, Mr. Hernández pointed out the role played by US drug consumption in creating the high level of violence that has led so many children to leave his country. He said, "For each nine Honduran minors who cross the US border, seven of them come from Honduran cities located along the narcrotrafficking routes, and these cities are among the 30 most violent municipalities in Honduras."

Also participating in the meeting at the White House will be President Salvador Sánchez of El Salvador and President Otto Pérez of Guatemala.

According to a White House statement:

"The four leaders and Vice President Biden will discuss how to reinforce our ongoing collaboration to stem the flow of undocumented migrants from Central America to Mexico and the United States. The leaders will also discuss how we can work together with other members of the international community to foster development, economic growth, and security in the region and address the factors that are causing Central American citizens to undertake the dangerous journey to the United States."

Finally, a dose of common sense.

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