Pairing Migration Enforcement with Foreign Policy

Cover photo Pairing Migration Enforcement with Foreign Policy Report Ravi Sharma, Unsplash

There has been a remarkably high inflow of migrants to the United States during the past years showing unprecedented numbers — equaling 1 percent of the US population.  This coincides with the dramatic and worsening political conditions in countries like Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. The Biden administration's new border enforcement action represents only a partial solution to the real migration problem. The decision to limit the entry of Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans contradicts US interests and should be accompanied by a more proactive foreign policy.

The leaders of these nations have ‘weaponized’ repression and poverty by expelling their citizens into exile. By standards of international institutions, Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela are extreme examples of democratic backsliding. The intention to migrate, therefore, is driven by fear, repression, incarceration, and economic exclusion. And it has proven convenient to expel people as a way to reduce pressures from society and receive remittances instead. A proportional US foreign policy response is needed, otherwise, people will continue to migrate. It must enforce values that protect democracy and remind citizens of these countries that they are not alone.

The change introduced may reduce some but not all migration. First, the measure may have the unintended result of marketing migration to those whose intention to migrate was not as strong as those with an urgent need to leave. Second, the measure requiring having a US sponsor is problematic insofar as it does not recognize that in most countries, the choice of coming to the United States is not because they have someone with legal status but because they want to feel safer.

This report recommends three differentiated steps the US should consider, including leveraging sanctions, working with the diaspora, and OAS engagement.




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