There has been a surge in immigration in 2019, with more than 75,000 migrants apprehended or turned away during the month of March alone. The Border Patrol is overwhelmed and the numbers are only increasing. The White House has committed to alleviating the “root causes” of these issues by focusing on securing the border. President Trump has emphasized his desire to successfully solve these issues internally through greater pressure on Congress to update asylum laws and by completing his campaign promise to build a physical wall along the entirety of the U.S.-Mexico border. Externally, President Trump is targeting the nations from where most of the migrants are coming. On 30 March 2019, United States President Donald Trump cut off funding to Central America. He claimed this was in response to the Northern Triangle nations of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador not doing their part to stop irregular migration or to stop the widely-reported migrant caravans. Unfortunately, this approach is unlikely to resolve the issues, which are causing irregular migration. Instead, it will very likely make them far worse in the long-term, threatening stability in North America, U.S. hegemony in the region, and negatively affecting the American image abroad.
Between 1980 and 1992, El Salvador experienced a Civil War which killed more than 75,000 and internally displaced a half million civilians. Upwards of 25% of the entire population fled the country and half of those went to the U.S. to find refuge. Only two percent were granted asylum. During the civil war, the U.S. was backing the Salvadoran government and felt taking in fleeing citizens would contradict its efforts. For those who were turned back to El Salvador, tens of thousands faced retribution and execution from that very same U.S.-backed Salvadoran military. Fear of retaliation significantly increased the migrants’ desire to stay, so many of the Salvadorans who were denied asylum fled inward, remaining in the U.S. illegally. During the same period, the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act was passed, and 146,000 Salvadorans received legal resident status. This substantial base of legally residing Salvadorans formed the foundation for immigration numbers to increase further a generation later.
The number of Salvadorans within the U.S. has grown to an estimated one-fifth of the Central American nation’s 6.5 million population. This has been through policies which allowed immigration to unite families, temporary protected status (TPS)notices due to natural disasters, and illegal migration. Of those, the majority reside in California and Texas, although pockets of Salvadorans live in major cities throughout the entire U.S. TPS extensions are valid for less than two years at a time and have been signed by both sides of the political divide since the 2001 decision to continue the status. The last TPS approval for Salvadorans was signed in 2016. However, in 2018, President Trump denied a further extension to TPS, putting 200,000 Salvadorans living legally within the U.S. at risk of deportation. An injunction was set into place, putting a temporary stay on ending the TPS and so the issue still sits, currently unresolved. The impact for those individuals is multifaceted. For Salvadorans, as well as the Sudanese, Nicaraguans, and Haitians also affected by TPS, those being deported have to choose whether they should take their families –specifically their children, who are U.S. citizens and were born legally in the States. Many of those protected by TPS have lived the majority of their lives in the U.S. and some do not even speak the language of the countries in which they were born. They are, by and large, working, tax-paying, law-abiding civilians who have had to register every 12-18 months to maintain their legal status and ability to work.
Salvadorans and policymakers in El Salvador know and understand that changes are required to stem irregular migration. The causes are many but can be summarized as a lack of economic prosperity, decreasing safety due to ever-growing gang populations, and political corruption. The U.S. Embassy in San Salvador, El Salvador’s capital city, has been almost exclusively focused on irregular migration since 2016. This is not to say that El Salvador is happy with the current system or that the nation has given up on resolving matters. Throughout El Salvador, there are well-established U.S.-Salvadoran partnerships with every embassy organization. Salvadorans have even established their own organizations to improve education, quality of life, and other essentials required to obtain future growth.
Further, on 3 February 2019, an outsider to the old regime of Salvadoran politics – Nayib Bukele – swept the first round of presidential elections, earning more than 53% of the total votes cast. The election was significant for three reasons. First, Bukele ran with a third party, one not representative of the traditional political groups from which Salvadorans typically choose a President. Second, presidential elections typically go through an initial round of voting in February and then have a second round in March. This year’s vote favored Bukele so much so that he was able to claim victory before the end of the first round of voting. The national consensus, which had a very low number of voters compared to previous elections, was still so severely in favor that he didn’t have to wait for official counts or final tallies to know he had won. Third, Bukele, one of the youngest democratically elected officials in the world, represents the millennial generation.
During his campaign, Nayib Bukele shunned the media, refusing to debate with his competitors on their national platforms. Instead, he campaigned via social media, speaking directly to his voter base. Bukele himself previously left the dominant two political parties after briefly working within each of them. He spurned their political corruption, recent disaffection with the U.S., closeness with China, and lack of support to the population amidst the immigration crisis. In fact, he worked as an anti-party candidate, very similar to recent presidential elections in nations who were attempting to change the status quo, like the U.S., the Philippines, Slovakia, and increasingly throughout Europe.
In a sense, President Trump is focusing on giving his border guards a better bullet-proof vest instead of working to stop them from being shot in the first place. El Salvador is a North American nation which ranks among the poorest on the continent. The Northern Triangle -Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras – are within the lowest 50 for GDP in the world. The root causes for the migration flow from El Salvador are bound to require support in the form of long-term nation-building, policy changes, and financial aid. This support needs to outlast presidents and take on a long-term investment viewpoint for the continent as a whole across generations.
The outgoing Salvadoran presidential administration was willing to look to China for support, going so far as recognizing Beijing over Taiwan last year. The U.S. response to this action was baffling. It recalled its senior diplomat to El Salvador and publicly weighed levying penalties against a nation who needed more support than it was getting. Actions like this cede maneuverability space for other great powers to step in, which China seems anxious to do. The U.S. should instead redouble its efforts in Central America to increase influence and show a commitment to the region. Generationally this will foster continued support for U.S. values and help to ensure that the U.S. remains a partner-of-choice for Central American nations concerning future national decisions.
President Trump would do well to increase the longevity of TPS Salvadorans – even granting permanent residency. Since their arrival, the TPS applicants have maintained and renewed their residency applications with the government, showing a significant adherence to the law. 88% of them are working legally, paying federal taxes to support both Social Security and Medicare. Those Salvadorans who are in the U.S. illegally earn less than their TPS counterparts and do not pay taxes. That means the remittances they send home are less and none of what they are paying is taxed, so the U.S. federal government sees no benefit. However, if these workers were residing in the U.S. legally using work visas, they could obtain better-paying jobs, pay income tax, and lessen the burden on the Border Patrol and related immigration agencies. President Trump should seek to loosen work-visa requirements and allow more Central American migrants to positively participate in the labor and tax structure of the U.S. His ‘tough stance’ at present is in fact operating at cross-purposes to his supposed long-term goals.
Instead of investing money on a physical barrier with no impact on the issues causing immigrants to flee, the White House should invest in programs that promote education, reduce violence, and fund the infrastructure required to build social capability. This will buoy the nations around the U.S., causing all of the countries to prosper. President-elect Bukele is coming into office having decreased the crime rates of a small town and large city when he was mayor, so he knows successful change. Bukele wants to prevent brain-drain and retain capable Salvadoran talent for the long term. Bukele is also vigorously seeking to end the gangs who threaten Salvadoran stability and impede long-term approaches that could lead to a resurgence. His landslide election was proof that the people of El Salvador are looking for that same change. The U.S., the world’s most powerful democratic nation, should work to applaud and support these policies. President Trump should encourage the agenda Bukele has set. Conditions like this would not simply cause people to stay in El Salvador: it could potentially cause them to return, thus positively ending the illegal migration ‘crisis.’ Attacking the issues in a neighborly way would reduce generational emigration, improve the security of North America’s southern nations, and promote U.S. policy on Salvadoran home turf. Providing for the region supports a positive image of the U.S. and prevents Central American countries from crumbling due to inequality or looking to other powerful nations, like China, for stability. For real success, the United States must stop viewing the Northern Triangle as a political Bermuda Triangle.
Billionaires, Vanity and Modern Democracy
The bullying in Washington is the current trend. On Monday, the British ambassador resigned his post after Trump refused to deal with him. Well-liked in Washington and the halls of Congress, his downfall was an honest assessment of the Trump administration as ‘inept’ and ‘dysfunctional’. The letters were leaked in the U.K.
Suppose the president tweets comments contrary to current established policy, does that mean a policy change? Do departments adapt promptly. Nobody knows. That’s dysfunctional, and everyone knows it. In the meantime, he has enjoyed 17 golf outings since February averaging three a month. No wonder he is that rare president who does not seem to age in office from the stresses of the job. Obama’s hair turned gray.
But then a lighter hand on the tiller has kept us out of war, whereas Obama, the Nobel Peace Laureate, destroyed Libya and escalated in Afghanistan. The consequences are still being felt in Southern Europe particularly, through the hordes of refugees still continuing to arrive. Also in the resurgence of anti-immigration political parties in northern Europe.
The supreme irony is the fact of refugees being rescued from ramshackle boats and dinghies or often dying in one part of the Mediterranean while the Obamas cruise on a billionaire’s luxury yacht in another. Is that a metaphor for democracies in the modern world? One is also reminded of Mr. Modi’s specially woven pinstripe cloth repeating his name endlessly on the stripes in the material.
Fortunately, the current president does not like the sea, or we would never see him in Washington. As it is he has had 14 visits to golf clubs (not as much time on the course however) since the beginning of June. He once had a small yacht that lay anchored in New York until he sold it. His pleasures have generally centered on the more mundane: cheeseburgers and women — the younger the better, although perhaps not as young as those that have gotten his friend Jeffrey Epstein in trouble again. To be fair, Trump had a falling out with him ‘about 15 years ago’ he said recently. ‘I was not a fan of his, I can tell you,’ he added although he called him a ‘terrific guy’ in 2002.
At least one party had 28 girls to a so-called calendar-girl party at Mar-a-Lago (Trump’s estate and club) in Florida, meaning selection of a calendar girl. The male celebrities attending, according to the man assigned the task of finding the girls, happened to be Trump and Epstein, and no one else! So surprised, the man still remembers the story. The falling out between Trump and Epstein was rumored to have been a business deal.
It brings us to the second resignation, that of Alex Acosta the Labor Secretary. A Harvard-educated lawyer, Mr. Acosta was the US attorney for the Southern District of Florida when he made a generous agreement with Epstein who had been charged with sex crimes. For a 13-month sentence of mostly community work, usually from his mansion, Mr. Epstein was protected from further prosecution. In a clear rebuke to Acosta, the case has been re-opened with a new charge of sex-trafficking minors.
As a result, Mr. Acosta has had to bow to the chorus of calls for his resignation. The real question: How ever did Trump get elected? A mainstream press failure?
What has happened to Western liberal idea?
In the recent interview with President Putin, the Financial Times seems to have launched a discussion on liberalism only at its own peril. Inadvertently, a real problem was touched upon, whose pressing nature is no longer denied by anyone in the West. The newspaper had to admit it in its Editorial of 29 June. Its authors claim that the threat to liberalism comes from within, including President Trump and his policies, Brexit and, certainly, the rise of “populist nationalism”. They refer to voters’ disillusionment with liberalism and loss of confidence in the economic system and trust in political elites. The latter are invited to redouble their efforts to take into consideration issues raised by voters and “to renew liberalism”.
Hence, the Russian leader has only identified a problem that Western elites are unable to acknowledge, desperately defending the status-quo as having no alternative. But where is the problem?
The systemic crisis of Western society, if we are to call a spade a spade, has its roots in Reaganomics and Thatcherism. In early 1980s, disregard for the lessons of the Great Depression led to Anglo-American attempts to sort of try the pre-1929 Pure Capitalism. This unleashed the forcers of a “self-regulated market” with the state playing a minimal role – a key concept of liberal economics. The idea of social accountability of business had no place in that system.
At the same time, financial sector was deregulated through the step-by-step repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, which was one of key elements of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. Its architect was British economist John Maynard Keynes. It was only natural that the 2008 crisis also started in the financial sphere which had practically lost touch with the real sector of economy.
Then neoliberalism (as it became known) came to be imposed by Anglo-Saxon nations on the whole of the EU through the Lisbon agenda. The then Prime Minister Tony Blair was pretty good at it. When asked what she considered as her key legacy, Margaret Thatcher pointed to Blair who continued her economic policies under the “New Labour” slogan.
For instance, everyone knows what the nationalization of British railways led to. Profits are reaped by operators, while costs are borne by taxpayers who finance UK Rail, the state-run company responsible for railroad infrastructure. And this is not the only way to privatise profits while collectivising costs. In fact, globalisation has become one such practice for Western elites. Its original motive was quite liberal and far from being altruistic or even geopolitical (Donald Trump has reassessed this part of it when he blamed globalisation for China’s economic rise). It was about cheap labour for increased profits. The jobs that were to be transferred abroad should have been compensated for by a new technological revolution. But it’s not happening, not even in the second generation. Information technologies do not create as many jobs, and we are already talking of robotisation and artificial intelligence, as well as a universal minimum living allowance as a solution to the problem of poverty and unemployment. It was Keynes who said: “Free trade assumes that if you throw men out of work in one direction you re-employ them in another. As soon as that link is broken the whole of the free trade argument breaks down”.
Liberalism in politics, especially after the end of the Cold War, has degenerated into averaging and alternative-free policies in the “end of history” spirit. Even Henry Kissinger admitted in his “World Order” (2014) that Western elites had again relied on automaticity, as was the case with the market. But as it was shown by Karl Marx supported by modern economists (Joseph Stiglitz, Paul Krugman, Thomas Picketty and others), free markets always give advantage to the investing classes, which only leads to more inequality.
In this respect, the 45-year post-WW2 period was an exception to the rule due to the creation of a social welfare state – the one that is now being destroyed by the neoliberal economics. Along with it the middle class is being destroyed – the pillar of Western democracy. For these reasons the real discourse of democracy is being substituted in the West by a discourse of liberalism. This involves labelling all protest voters as “populists” and “nationalists”, allowing to side-step the issue of the inability of the actual political system to represent this silent majority. Yet, that is what’s going on when differences blur between the Right and the Left, Tory and Labour in Britain, Republicans and Democrats in the US, or Christian Democrats and Social Democrats in Germany’s “Grand coalition”. Is it any wonder that when an opportunity arises to have a say, this majority votes for Brexit, Trump, or newly-created anti-system parties and movements, often with marginal ideologies?
In social terms, as BBC is trying to explain in this ongoing debate, liberalism is about protecting the rights of minorities of all kind, including transgender persons. It turns out that there’s nobody to protect the interests of the majority. Yet, we are speaking of the post-war “social contract”, which simply does not work in liberal economics. Anglo-Saxons are on the path of further liberalisation, which the continental Europe cannot afford. Boris Johnson, contributing to the discussion, has said the other day that Brexit is precisely aimed at giving a new lease of life to it by following the US in income tax reductions for business and private individuals.
British political analyst David Goodhart (in “The Road to Somewhere: The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics”, 2017) shows another perspective of the issue. In his opinion, the elites have become cosmopolitan, but the majority has remained rooted in their own countries, regions and communities. In other words, the majority sticks to its national identity, unlike the elites. Even the European middle class, united by similar living standards and occupations, becomes aware of its nationality when hit by bad economic times.
Those who accuse Russia of meddling in internal affairs of Western countries are essentially denying their voters the right to vote, while the genesis of the liberalism crisis clearly points to its roots and origins inside the system. It was no-one else but Angela Merkel who in 2010 spoke of failure of multiculturalism in Germany, while calling for intensifying efforts at integrating immigrants into German society.
It was not Moscow that drew the attention to this problem. As early as 2007, the Economist wrote of a “secular overreachl” in the West, while today many are voicing concerns over a “liberal overreach”. Speaking broadly, it can be said that in the absence of a competitive environment in the realm of ideas after the end of the Cold War (which ended up doing a disservice to Western elites), liberalism has mutated into a dogma, a totalitarian ideology which does not tolerate dissent or pluralism of ideas. No wonder that the elites have resorted to political technologies, media control and political correctness to tighten the grip on the freedom of speech and generate semblance of an alternative-free existence. Social media have put an end to this, becoming a tool for politically alienated electorate to self-organize. As a measure to protect the status quo, the elites are now constructing an artificial dichotomy of liberalism vs authoritarianism, i.e. if not one, it’s definitely the other.
It is, therefore, not about the end of the liberal idea, just as President Putin pointed out, but that it cannot claim to be a one-size-fits-all model negating the wealth of ideas in Europe and the world. The problem is that any ideology, as history has shown, is always aggressive when it claims the ultimate truth, exceptionalism and, as a result, becomes a threat to the world. The notion of a “liberal world order” has also been introduced only recently, as a defensive reaction of the West when its dominance in global politics, economy and finance is coming to an end. Everything could have been different, had Western elites bothered to make this order, Bretton Woods institutions included, truly liberal, open and inclusive. Nobody was preventing them from doing so.
From our partner International Affairs
Could Trump’s tricks boost his ratings and settle the Syrian conflict?
Recently the U.S. President Donald Trump formally launched his 2020 re-election campaign in front of a large crowd in Orlando, Florida. The campaign is gaining momentum. We have already seen the celebrities and politicians speeches, preliminary ratings and even the economic models of the New York Times predicting Trump’s victory. For his part, the candidate keeps on delighting the world community by posting promising Tweets to increase his popularity and to retake votes from his opponents. According to Gallup, 45% of U.S. adults said Trump should be impeached and removed from office over the matter, while 53% said he should not be. 45% is too much for the sitting president, so it has been decided to increase his positions in the eyes of freedom fighters.
In this case, we are not speaking about the strict implementation of all his statements, but only about election promises that can snatch the next agenda from competitors. For instance, the situation is so with Trump’s report on the withdrawal of the U.S. troops from Afghanistan. It looks like the White House analysts are working on the same scenario.
Last Monday President Trump told Fox News that he would leave an intelligence presence in Afghanistan, though he has long hoped for a full withdrawal of U.S. military presence from the country. So, according to Trump’s statement, the U.S. will retain intelligence in the region. That’s ridiculous! Washington has been trying to withdraw troops from Afghanistan for several years.
Boutros Marjana – the head of Syria’s parliamentary Foreign Relations Committee in response stated that this action was focused on the media, to make the average American to believe that the unnecessary and external conflict is over. “Tramp said the same on Syria. However, a radical change in the area of hostilities has not happened. The situation on the ground is quite different from what was stated. So far, in my opinion, the United States has not developed a strategy for the situation in the eastern coast of the Euphrates River”, Marjana said.
And while Trump is posting Tweets for his electorate, the U.S.-led international coalition carried out another air raid on the residential area in Idlib province. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) units were the alleged aim of the aviation. The details on casualties among civilians have not been reported. It worth noting, that during the previous bombardment, apart from the extremists, 49 civilians in a mosque were killed.
U.S. Central Command announced that the attack had been initiated in response to HTS terrorist acts in residential areas. It is unlikely that Trump will actually withdraw from Syria or Afghanistan because the killing of terrorists and civilians does not stop.
Moreover, telling the world about the withdrawal of troops the White House decided to put pressure upon Germany to expand its participation in the Syrian conflict (apparently instead of Washington).
Currently, Germany supplies weapons and surveillance planes to Syria. However, the United States insists on Germany to send its ground forces.
It is hardly surprising that some international coalition members suddenly proclaim their participation in the joint operation against ISIS terrorists under any pretext. In fact, their contingent will be intended to replace the U.S. troops that following Trump’s intention should be withdrawn from Syria. Wonder who will get all the U.S. military bases in Syria? In this situation, the obvious question arises: why should the EU troops be located in Syria instead of the U.S.? And who is going to replace the U.S. forces in Afghanistan?
At the same time, Israel is also playing an active role in the ‘peacemaking’ process in Syria. On June 1, at least 15 citizens, including five women and a child, were killed as a result of the Israeli air strike on Syria.
Anyway, illegal U.S. forces presence is a considerable obstacle to the political settlement of the Syrian conflict. And the cynical Israeli air attacks, as well as its international policy, break any hope for resolving all disputes peacefully. Trump may make the only right decision that will let him increase his ratings using the Syrian issue. The current president should do his best to reconcile the parties, suspend cooperation with Israel, and also establish a dialogue with Turkey, Russia, and Iran. That is very unlikely. Therefore Trump has to go on tricks with a contingent from other states.
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