How a business-first foreign policy triggered the migration caravans

tags: immigration, refugees, Trump, Refugee Policy

Arica L. Coleman is a historian, lecturer and author of "That the Blood Stay Pure: African Americans, Native Americans and the Predicament of Race and Identity in Virginia." 

In a tweet last Monday, President Trump threatened to “substantially cut aid to El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala” because of a caravan of refugees making its way to the U.S.-Mexico border. His tweet once again transformed the flight of people in Central America into a political game that falsely argues for a strict separation between North American countries, reinforced with rigid borders and insulting rhetoric.

In doing so, the Trump administration is defying history. Since the promotion of the Monroe Doctrine over 200 years ago, the United States has pursued a policy of undermining the borders and sovereignty of countries to bolster American corporate interests. As a result, U.S. policymakers created the situations now causing people to flee.

In his seventh annual address before Congress on Dec. 2, 1823, President James Monroe asserted, “As a principle in which the rights and interests of the United States are involved . . . the American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintain, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers.” Monroe and then-Secretary of State John Quincy Adams saw political and economic events in South and Central America as intricately tied with American commercial and military interests.

In 1854, the United States made clear what the doctrine would mean for Central America. Samuel Borland, secretary of state and minster to Nicaragua, was visiting the nation to obtain rights for U.S. citizens to purchase real estate when a skirmish broke out and Borland sustained nonlethal injuries. In response, President Franklin Pierce sent the warship Cyane, which fired more than 200 rounds on the port town San Juan Del Norte, bombing that established U.S. hegemony in the Western Hemisphere for the next half-century.

In 1904, Theodore Roosevelt expanded these efforts with his corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, dubbed “Big Stick Diplomacy” based on the West African proverb “Speak softly and carry a big stick: You will go far.” In other words, negotiations with America’s southern neighbors should be calmly articulated and underscored by the silent threat of military force. ...

Read entire article at The Washington Post

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