It’s Never Just “This or That”

By anyone’s definition, by any measure, right now we have a crisis at our southern border.

Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, March 30, 2019 on

First of all, this post is not about the best plan of action regarding illegal immigration. This article is about the arguments for and against suspending aid to the Northern Triangle of countries (Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador)

Last Friday, President Trump ended aid payments to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. The president’s argument is “We were paying them tremendous amounts of money, and we’re not paying them anymore because they haven’t done a thing for us.” So Mr. Trump’s argument is basically, we’re paying for a service, we’re not receiving the service we’ve paid for, so we’ll stop paying.

As I understand it, the presidents critics on this issue argue that cutting foreign aid to these countries will only exacerbate the problems that are driving people to attempt the migration.

Seems simple, right? Continue with aid to prevent people from making the long and dangerous migration, or end the aid and try to stop them at the border.

But here’s the thing…it’s not that simple.

In his book, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, John Perkins described how and why aid is provided to other countries. Basically, foreign aid does a few things. First, it gives the leader of the recipient nation the opportunity to skim a bit off the top to the benefit of themselves, their friends and their family. Secondly, it usually is tied to some kind of project or program where an American corporation will receive a good chunk of the funds. Finally, foreign aid payments buy diplomatic support for the US government. On occasion, foreign aid funds are used to provide humanitarian aid.

If the governments that receive the aid used it in ways to actually improve their society, we probably wouldn’t have as many people migrating for economic reasons.