Jorge Barón, the executive director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, and Dave Lindorff, an investigative reporter, joined Radio Sputnik's Loud & Clear Monday to discuss how US President Donald Trump's comments are detrimental to the humanitarian needs of migrants.
US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) also announced last week that more than 76,000 immigrants crossed into the United States without authorization in February, which is an 11-year high. Meanwhile, Mexican Interior Minister Olga Sanchez said on Thursday that his country was preparing to receive a 20,000-strong caravan of migrants heading to the United States from Honduras in the coming weeks, Sputnik previously reported.
Last week, Trump ordered the US State Department to cut all direct financial assistance to the so-called Northern Triangle countries: El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.
"We were paying them tremendous amounts of money, and we're not paying them anymore, because they haven't done a thing for us," Trump told reporters Friday.
"This idea that Central American countries are not doing something for us… the president is totally missing the point that the reason that people are fleeing [countries like El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala] is because of severe levels of violence," Barón told hosts John Kiriakou and Brian Becker.
"Most of the aid isn't going to the governments [of these countries] directly. It is going through US-funded programs to try to provide protection to help make the situation better for people on the ground. If the president is trying to stem people from having to leave those countries, this is going to be counterproductive on that front. The impact [of closing the border will have a] human cost but also [an] economic cost. He's [Trump's] trying to create this sense of chaos to try to justify some of his draconian immigration policies, and this might have such consequences, that if he does move forward with this, [it is going to be like] the family separation crisis, where he will have to quickly back down because of the impact it will have," Barón added, referring to Trump's signing of an executive order in June that ended his widely-condemned practice of separating families at the border who are trying to enter the country without documentation.
"We have a lot of corporate investments in these places [South American countries] that are making fortunes, and cutting off trade is not only hurting the people that work in those companies, but it's also going to cut the profits of those countries that are exporting [products] back into the US. If [the US] trade cuts off with Mexico, that's more than $2 billion in trade going both ways across the border every single day," Lindorff told Sputnik.
According to Barón, Trump's anti-immigration rhetoric is "taking attention away from the fact that we should be addressing the legitimate humanitarian needs of people and allowing them to seek opportunity, to seek asylum here in the US. We're starting to miss that part of the equation." He also commented on the misallocation of resources by the CBP, which claims that the medical needs of immigrants and the processing of migrant families are distracting agents from arresting dangerous individuals at the border.
"The administration is trying to respond in ways that are completely inappropriate and putting resources where they shouldn't be. To the extent that they need resources to help process asylum seekers at the border — one of the challenges that we're seeing is that CBP is still using resources for a lot of enforcement that it shouldn't be. There may be some legitimate needs, but that doesn't justify even more money" being allocated to the CBP, Barón told Sputnik.
"I think we really have to rethink our relationship with the rest of the world. The fact that this administration is focused, as it explicitly says, on this ‘America First' mentality. If that's the approach, then it's never going to work. We're part of a global economy. We're part of a global community. Think about what we've done to places like El Salvador and Honduras with regards to gangs. Why do they gave such problems with gangs in those countries? We certainly exported the problem from here [the US] to there by deporting people from here, being tough on that front. We really have to rethink immigration policy, how we conduct foreign policy, how we conduct our engagement with other countries," Barón added.
"All three of the counties that we are talking about were the victims of grotesque US intervention," Lindorff added, commenting on US interventionist policies that have led people in South American countries to flee from internal strife and violence.
In 1954, the US government organized a military coup in Guatemala to overthrow the country's democratically-elected government, while in December, the US government recognized Juan Orlando Hernández as the president of Honduras, even as locals mounted angry protests over what they believed to be a fraudulent vote count.