Biden Administration

Biden Should Strive To Be Better Than Both Trump and Obama on Central America

The administration’s approach should discourage the drug war, encourage immigration.


The press has been filled with praise for President-elect Joe Biden's foreign policy team. Antony Blinken, tapped to head the Department of State, has been lauded for his pledge to restore aid to the Northern Triangle countries—Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador—that account for the majority of migration across the U.S.-Mexico border. These funds were largely cut during the Trump administration.

Blinken also brings an immigrant background to the table, which Biden sees as a uniquely qualifying factor for a secretary of state. While announcing his foreign policy nominees, Biden declared, "I know him and his family, immigrants and refugees, a Holocaust survivor, who taught him to never take for granted the very idea of America as a place of possibilities."

"America is back!" Biden exclaimed during the announcement.

Back to what, exactly?

For all the differences between Barack Obama's and Donald Trump's approaches to immigration, both administrations tried to discourage immigration from Central America. Blinken appears poised to continue that under Biden: The reason he wants to restore aid to Northern Triangle nations is to encourage would-be migrants to stay home. As The New York Times puts it, the point is "to persuade migrants that they will be safer and better off remaining home."

That was the Obama approach. In those days, then–Vice President Biden helped broker a bipartisan deal to send $750 million in aid to those countries, hoping to stem the outflow of migrants by spurring economic improvement, rooting out corruption, and cracking down on violent crime.

"Obviously, the problems in those countries when it comes to crime and gang violence, drugs, lack of economic opportunity, among other things, are huge drivers," Blinken said in a July interview with the Hudson Institute. "The idea that someone wakes up in the morning and says, 'Gee, wouldn't it be great fun today to give up everything I know, where I live, my family, my friends, my comfort and go to someplace that may not want me where I may not even know the language or have family or friends. Wouldn't that be a great thing to do?'"

But did the aid package really change that calculation? According to the Council on Foreign Relations, Obama's tenure saw the deportation of around 3 million people, outpacing the number under President George W. Bush. And a majority of those deportees came from the Northern Triangle.

"I doubt the Biden administration will try to make migration from Central America easier," says Stephen Yale-Loehr, immigration law attorney and professor at Cornell University. "At most they hope to manage it better."

The Global War on Drugs

Worse yet, some of the aid billed as a cure for the Northern Triangle's violence might have exacerbated it instead. Much of that Obama-era assistance was tied to the War on Drugs, which has had a destabilizing effect on the region. In a directive issued halfway through his second term, Obama argued that "U.S. engagement in Central America" needed to include "intensified counternarcotics efforts."

Biden seems eager to continue that approach. In 2019, he described his immigration policy by boasting about his role in Plan Columbia, an early-'00s package of assistance to the Colombian government. "You do the following things to make your country better so people don't leave, and we will help you do that. Just like we did in Colombia," Biden told CNN. But Plan Columbia was aimed mostly at stopping the production of cocaine, and it helped prop up a violent regime as long as the government claimed to be fighting the "war on drugs and terror."

Back in 1988, a RAND report found that interdiction efforts abroad have little impact on drug consumption in the U.S. In fact, prohibition made the black market more profitable. As Ethan Nadelmann, founder of the Drug Policy Alliance, wrote that same year in Foreign Policy, black-market drug profits pay for the bribes—to authority figures ranging from low-level cops to federal judges—that help facilitate the drug trade. The functionaries who resist are killed. If drugs were legal, Nadelmann noted, the trade would instead "function not unlike the international markets in legal substances such as liquor, coffee and tobacco."

More than 30 years later, Nadelmann says those gangs have diversified their business, entering sectors ranging from cattle farming to the construction industry. But illicit drug trafficking still drives a lot of violence, and prohibition continues to backfire.

"It's analogous to alcohol prohibition," he tells Reason. "When you prohibit a transnational commodities market, the result is to have all the negative implications: organized crime, violence, corruption." Washington's interdiction efforts are not just futile; they're dangerous. "Drug interdiction operations pursued by DEA and others…may immobilize a particular gang or route, but they tend not to pay attention to the fallout. Sometimes you knock out one criminal organization, and a more powerful one takes its place."

But while Biden appears open to softening domestic enforcement of marijuana laws, he isn't interested in cutting the link between foreign aid and the drug war. During a vice presidential visit to Mexico and Honduras in 2012, Biden slapped down leaders' hopes that the U.S. might consider legalizing drugs. ("It's worth discussing, but there is no possibility the Obama/Biden administration will change its policy on [drug] legalization," he said after meeting with Mexican President Felipe Calderón.) Eight years later, a drug crackdown is a central component of his foreign policy team's plan to improve conditions in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.

Open Borders?

Biden and Blinken do appear to want a more humane immigration policy than Trump's. And it's hard to beat the inhumanity of the outgoing president's "zero tolerance" effort to contain migration by separating children from their parents. But can't the Democrats do better than a failed strategy that steps up a militarized drug war—and still tries to discourage migration from the region, albeit with more carrots than sticks? Isn't there a better way?

Bryan Caplan, an economist at George Mason University, has long advocated open borders. He acknowledges that this is an even harder sell than usual during a pandemic, but he hopes that will change once a vaccine is widely distributed and the virus abates.

Caplan expects Biden's immigration strategy to be preferable to Trump's, but he argues that curtailing freedom of movement is ultimately a lost cause. What's more, he says it's a bad cause: Freedom of movement, he argues, is a good thing. Not just for the immigrants, but for almost everyone.

"When you let people move from places where there's labor unproductivity to places with more productivity, there's so much to gain," Caplan says. "If anyone could work anywhere on earth, the production of humanity could double. Let human talent move."

Trying to stop that, he adds, leads to tragedy. U.S. Customs and Border Protection estimates that 7,216 people died trying to cross the border from 1998 and 2017. The most common causes of death were exposure and drowning.

"Rather than having to separate from family, leaving kids, risk dying in the desert," Caplan says, "someone could take a $30 bus ride from their country into the U.S." Instead, Biden and Blinken seem committed to the policies that earned Obama the nickname deporter-in-chief.

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  1. Alternative fact: office of the president elect is a real thing.

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    2. Well President Elect Biden is working which is more than the current President is doing.

      1. A man who could not get a job as a Walmart greeter is not “working.” Let’s not live in pretend land. I will bet anyone $50 that Joe could not take a series of questions from 2nd graders for half an hour without saying something very racist or blurting out “We created the most extensive and inclusive voter fraud organization in the history of American politics.”

        1. I quit working at shop rite and now I make $65-85 per/h. How? I’m working online! My work didn’t exactly make me happy so I decided to take a chance on something new… after 4 years it was so hard to quit my day job but now I couldn’t be happier. Here’s what I do… USA ONLINE JOBS

          1. Congratulations, Mr. Biden!

      2. “Well President Elect Biden is working” on a bowl of applesauce.

        “Well President Elect Biden is working” on keeping his diaper and drool bib clean.

        “Well President Elect Biden is working” on an afternoon nap.

  2. Blinken also brings an immigrant background to the table, which Biden sees as a uniquely qualifying factor for a secretary of state.

    Say what, now?

    1. Oh, I just thought about this for a minute. The Media’s favorite Sec. of State was Kissinger, so I can totally see this. Carry on.

      1. My wife was born on base in Wiesbaden, Germany. She has HK’s signature on her naturalization papers.

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  3. Poor unreason. They really believe Biden will be President and all the non-Lefties will fall into line behind the Commies.

    1. So…… s this chick the new Shikha? Same as the old Shikha?

      1. All the unreason staff dabble in insane Commie rhetoric. Shikha was rocking the boat before the Commies had fully secured it.

        They have to “even” it out with non-Libertarian filler to keep up the charade that unreason is anything but a propaganda outlet for Lefties.

        Its like this massive election fraud by Democrats. You CANT have Democrat supporters actually saying publicly there was election fraud. Communism depends on its horrible policies sneaking up on ignorant masses.

      2. Will she be Shikha Lite or Shikha Extra Spicy?

        She’s got the right credentials to be a Dalmia Mark II; WaPo, The Nation, The Daily Beast, Rolling Stone, Teen Vogue…
        Overqualified you might almost say.

        1. Easy on the eyes too, but unfortunately white.

          Having a cracker lecture me about PoC, colonialism and “racist” immigration policies, won’t be as exciting as being lectured by the Brahmin-privileged.
          I always felt like a naughty little Dalit when Shikha was done with me.

          1. Technically Indians are Caucasians too. Whites and Indians all originated from the Caucasus region of Asia.

            1. Well yes and no.
              Northern Europeans and North Indians both have some Caucus Hunter Gatherer ancestry via Western Steppe Herders (Yamnaya) ancestry via Corded Ware, but it’s minimal compared to the amounts of Eastern Hunter Gatherer, Western Hunter Gatherer and Early European Farmers.

              North Indians got large amounts of Corded Ware North European ancestry via Andronovo and Sintashta cultures in the Bronze Age.

              There’s an older, different Caucus component in most West Eurasians from the Dzudzuana population∼26 thousand ago, but the amount varies.

          2. She could pretend to be black. Rachel Dolezal does that.

  4. FBI: Communist China Spy Infiltrated California Politicians, Including Russia Hoaxer Eric Swalwell

    We knew unreason staff were compromised by the Commies long ago.

    1. one of the country’s primary spying agencies, she collected private information on U.S. bureaucrats, especially those in California’s Bay Area.

      By doing what… looking at their twitter feed?

      1. Ancient Chinese secret!

    2. Oh, wait, this is the immigration that Biden is talking about.

      Fang reportedly gained access to political circles as a student at California State University East Bay and her positions as president of the school’s Chinese Student Association and president of the campus chapter of Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs (APAPA) in 2011. She hurriedly departed from the U.S. back to China in 2015, despite planning to attend upcoming events in the states.

      1. Plus, as you peel back the layers of corruption, China is trying to undermine US foreign policy. Especially as it relates to trade with China.

        If our Deep State wasnt so corrupt, we would probably have a strong and public case that China is our enemy and is actively engaging in clandestine warfare with the USA.

        The USA spies on every country, but the USA doesnt want to go to war with all these countries. We do it out of self-defense to see what are “friends” and enemies are doing.

    3. Huh, Swalwell’s office essentially confirms this story, but “won’t participate” because they already alerted the FBI and don’t want to compromise any secret information.

      And nothing about this story has hit major news centers. Relegated to the “Fake News Sites” such as NY Post and Daily Mail.

      1. Amazing how one set of politicians get FBI protection while the other side gets FBI investigation.

        1. That day you wake up and discover that America had a coup, but it happened years ago.

      2. Texas filed a lawsuit today suing Georgia et al for election and constitutional violations. That was not covered by the news either.

        I saw it on

        1. Thank God for Texas. Why should corrupt Democrats on the take in Philly, Detroit, Atlanta, and Milwaukee essentially stuff every fake ballot they can into Soros’s Dominion machines and then quit counting in the middle of the night to insert Eric Coomer’s algorithm? So Zuckerberg and Bezos and the oligarchs are happy? Here’s how I vote: for whomever Bezos and Zuckerberg and Dorsey are not voting for.

          1. Louisiana just filed with the SCOTUS too.


            Thank God the USA is a Republic and even with some Democrats and RINOs helping this massive election fraud get swept under the carpet, more and more states are challenging Biden’s “win”.

      3. “And nothing about this story has hit major news centers. Relegated to the ‘Fake News Sites’ such as NY Post and Daily Mail.”

        Democracy Dies In Darkness, y’all.

  5. >>The press

    ya fuck all y’all.

    >>Instead, Biden and Blinken seem committed to the policies that earned Obama the nickname deporter-in-chief.

    this can’t be your first day but in case it is Biden won’t do anything Obama hasn’t okayed through Harris. der.

  6. Poor Democrats and their ignorant base.

    Texas Sues Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin at Supreme Court over Election Rules

    I thought Trump would win Trump vs Biden. I had no idea that Trump would win Texas v. Georgia, et al.

    1. God bless Texas.

      1. Don’t mess with them!

  7. Why is a libertarian magazine for giving our money to foreign countries?

    1. Why is a libertarian Vox-lite magazine for giving our money to foreign countries?

    2. So we can bring Democracy to the uncivilized world.

    3. The reason he wants to restore aid to Northern Triangle nations is to encourage would-be migrants to stay home

      What laughable nonsense. Funneling money into corrupt regimes will discourage migration into the US? Brilliant plan.

    4. They didn’t say they were. Just reporting the news, not making it.

  8. Ol Biteme needs some new hair to smell and Central America is the ticket.

  9. The best foreign aid that could be sent to Central America are the remittances that migrants themselves send back to their families.

    Do you think all of the economic migrants coming here to work actually want to move here permanently with their families? A lot of them, I imagine, don’t really want to move away from where they grew up, and instead just want to earn enough money to support their families. Let these migrants come here on a temporary work visa, send money to their families back home, and then return home after the work is over.

    It is “foreign aid” that goes directly to the people who need it, it doesn’t originate from coercive taxation, it isn’t donated to corrupt dictators, and it is completely voluntary on everyone’s part.

    1. Let these migrants come here on a temporary work visa, send money to their families back home, and then return home after the work is over.

      I’m reminded of the… if I recall correctly, the Merkel Potsdam speech where EU officials essentially admitted a major whoopsy, that they thought all these economic migrants would, at some point, go home.

      1. I think it worked better when more of the immigrants were Mexican. Easier to get back home. I do still think that if it were easier to come and go to work temporarily, fewer immigrants would move to the US permanently. The money people make here goes a long way in Guatemala.

      2. admitted a major whoopsy, that they thought all these economic migrants would, at some point, go home

        Surprise! It turns out nobody wants to hike 50 miles through the jungle (or desert) to get to a Tim Hortons.

        No surprise! Jeffy thinks a demonstrably failed social policy will work this time if we have the ‘right peoplez’ in charge of it.

        1. In their defenc it is uphill both ways

          1. They always put Tim Hortons on a hill so you can roll home from it? That actually makes sense.

    2. Why would the work be over? Do you think all they do is pick fruit?

      1. Yes, he does.

    3. I think this is really good idea. I am reminded of an article in my local paper about an undocumented dairy worker (lots of undocumented work on dairy farms). He was saving money to build an indoor kitchen for his wife back in central America.

      1. Cool story brah.

    4. Thanks for admitting up front you just make shit up to align with your leftwing policy preferences you ignorant POS.

      You do realize every person who comes here is partially responsible for requiring more to the welfare state either by dislocating people into the roles or signing up directly/indirectly.

  10. “Trying to stop that, he adds, leads to tragedy. U.S. Customs and Border Protection estimates that 7,216 people died trying to cross the border from 1998 and 2017. The most common causes of death were exposure and drowning.”

    Absolutely unforgivable. That’s substantially more casualties than Al Qaeda inflicted on 9 / 11. In other words, the alt-right white nationalist policy of “border enforcement” is literally more deadly than Islamic terrorism.

    Fortunately President Biden will do what Wall Street, billionaires, and Reason writers elected him to do — implement unlimited, unrestricted immigration.


    1. Funny how bean dips can trespass illegally and it’s OK. If I crossed a desert with a child and they died; I would be brought up on child abuse charges. But for a crappy illegal mom to do it’s ok?

      1. Who said it was OK?

      2. So, the child separation policy is punishment for bad parenting? If that is the case, they are not treating them any differently than citizens.

        1. Well that is one way you can look at it…risking your child’s life is a good way to lose custody. And where are the daddy’s? I only see poor uneducated women with five kids trying to get in so many videos….I thought central America was Catholic and unwed moms were frowned upon?

    2. The open-border libertarian billionaires are aligned with “we mean well” progressives who have been Displacing Black Communities in America for at least six decades.

      1. There are no ‘we mean well’ progressives, only ‘we need a new electorate who will vote for socialism’ progressives.

  11. I bet the same ones clamoring for open borders have a fence around their propoerty and lock their doors when they leave?!

    1. And live in a gated community.

  12. “If anyone could work anywhere on earth, the production of humanity could double. Let human talent move.”

    But if anyone could live anywhere on earth, taxpayer costs of Medicaid, Medicare, food stamps, public housing and public schools would skyrocket, while wages in the US would fall dramatically (because America’s population would double or triple in the next several years, as the poorest people from the poorest nations would move here).

    1. The foreign born share of the U.S. population has increased dramatically since 1970, and to the range it was in the late 1800s. Wages haven’t fallen dramatically. Research shows that newer immigrant workers often compete with older immigrant workers rather than native-born Americans. The “immigrants will break the bank” trope has been a staple of American nativism since, well, America started. There is a depth of economic research in this area, little that supports your proposition.

    2. Just think, if we doubled humanity’s production, media outlets like Reason would have twice as many Tweets to retweet!

  13. Fuck off, Reason.

    1. And yet here you are, giving them clicks.

  14. I am pretty close to open borders but I do not have much hope that will happen nor ending the drug war.

    I agree with chemjeff. Give people temporary work and residency permits. Those could be renewable.

    1. So just bring in fruit pickers?

      1. I have always said that if they got rid of government backed student loans, kids saving for college could do seasonal fruit and nut picking for extra money. Just like they used to.

        All these kids going to college via loans instead of cash is insanity. Not only do colleges rape kids for tuition but the kids dont get a valued education and leave with massive debt.

        1. College was cheap then. You couldn’t pay for it now with those kinds of jobs. A lot of students work but most of that just goes to pay for expenses.

          1. Good response. When I was in college my summer job 10 weeks, 40 hours week, at $1.80 (minimum wage) would cover two semesters tuition. Same job today at minimum wage plus (say $10/hour) would not cover a semester.

            1. Because tuition is out of control due to federal backed student loans dummies.

              You Lefties are so stupid and twist everything.

              1. Democrats destroy everything they touch.

          2. I hate this defeatist bullshit. Not to defend tuition and fees too adamently, but it reminds me of the (low) wage workers who will forego a raise because it puts them in a higher tax bracket and then complain when they get furloughed or can’t cover an unforeseen expense. You’ve got all the ability and wherewithal to figure out how to make more money or command more assets, but you refuse because you’re to scared, lazy, or both. It’s like saying, “I can’t work a wage job that will let me buy a Ferrari with cash next year, so I can’t afford a car.”

            I started at $0.08/bale at 8 yrs. old. A decade later I was making $12/hr. driving and had multiple sources of side income. Still had plenty of time and money for dating, parties, sports, music, and video games. You may not be able to work enough jobs and massage enough money to go to Harvard, but that’s pretty much always been the case for the 99%, and if you can’t make enough at $8-12/hr. living at home to mostly pay for a local or regional college (especially if you start in your tweens), the cost of college isn’t the problem.

            Again, the rising cost of college is a problem but entitlement and credentialism that erects artificial divisions, and the perception that those artificial divisions are real and insurmountable is just as much a part of the problem.

          3. If not for taxpayer-funded loans, college tuition would still be affordable.

            1. +10000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000

  15. Speaking of immigration.

    “Although authorities described the scheme as potential “domestic terrorism,” there is no federal statute dealing specifically with domestic terrorism. Bilbrough, 20, of Maryland, was charged with five felony counts of transporting and harboring an alien, meaning one of his co-defendants, who had entered the country illegally from Canada.”

    1. there is no federal statute dealing specifically with domestic terrorism

      LOL! No shit. The founding fathers would have all been sent to Guantanamo.

      It’s like a hate crime. It is whatever the prosecutor wants to believe it is.

      1. It’s weird how the FBI was able to investigate and arrest him for an activity that has no federal law preventing it. What does all the paperwork say, “Investigating a potential case of domestic terrorism in case it becomes a crime.”?

        Similarly weird, Dylan Roof was convicted in a federal court of 9 counts of “Hate crime act resulting in death”, 3 counts of “Hate crime act involving an attempt to kill”, 9 counts of “Obstruction of exercise of religion resulting in death”, and 3 counts of “Obstruction of exercise of religion involving an attempt to kill and use of a dangerous weapon”. It’s kinda “funny” how, when the targets are nominally same-race (white) gun owners, the FBI/DOJ suddenly can’t find a law against it.

        Almost like the entire premise is bullshit.

  16. Slobberin’ Joe should strive for coherency.

  17. “Biden Should Strive To Be Better Than Both Trump and Obama on Central America”

    Hahahahahahahahaha! Hohohohohohoho! HeeeHeeeHeee!

    Oh, you guys are funny. As if that was going to happen. LOL

  18. 100,000 poor uneducated women each with five kids and no daddy who can’t speak english and don’t give a shit about our idea of very limited govt will not be promoting liberty or paying taxes. Immigration but to cultures who value freedom, hard work and conservative values…not seeing that from unwed moms from the northern triangle…sorry less immigration from that area is better not worse..more from more productive cultures like China, SE Asia, Middle East, and Europe…best way to ensure our liberty and natural rights.

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