Writing in The Conversation, the former US diplomat Paul J. Angelo examines the Trump administration’s policy toward Central America, and finds it lacking in both strategy and logic. Excerpt below:
Donald Trump’s antagonism toward Latin America might be gratifying to the more racist and isolationist elements of his political base, but it isn’t serving his presidency well. His administration’s policy in the region is both uncharitable and poorly co-ordinated, particularly in Mexico and Central America – and the various crackdowns it’s instigating are already having unintended consequences.
The administration’s latest victims are beneficiaries of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) coverage. TPS grants legal permission to live and work in the US, and is awarded to eligible nationals from designated countries afflicted by natural disaster and conflict. The US government first selected Central American beneficiaries of this programme in 1999, just after Hurricane Mitch left nearly 20,000 Central Americans dead and more than 1.5m homeless.
The Trump administration’s attitude to Central America means that thousands of people are set to lose their TPS status. Most recently, the Department of Homeland Security decided to remove Hondurans from the TPS scheme, meaning 86,000 Honduran nationals currently living in the US will no longer be eligible to work there. El Salvador was also removed from the programme in February, meaning 200,000 Salvadorans are expected to leave the US by September 2019.
Honduras and El Salvador are among the most violent countries in the world, and their inadequate public infrastructures and faltering economies are ill-equipped to cope with hundreds of thousands of returnees. To make matters worse, 17-18% of each country’s GDP is made up of remittances from people working in the US. Rescinding those people’s TPS eligibility won’t help tackle the region’s instability and grinding poverty, and it certainly won’t deter Central Americans from attempting the journey north.