It's Opposite Day. Now we're going to help pay for Mexico's wall

Okay… just to be clear, it’s probably not going to be a wall per se, but you get the drift.

Last week we looked at the announcement that Mexico was moving to secure their own southern border with Guatemala and prevent people from illegally entering the country. At the time, I tossed out what seemed to be a mostly fanciful suggestion that if the Mexican government was really serious about this effort, we should consider kicking in some cash to help make it happen. Well, wonders never cease. It’s only a week later and the White House is apparently doing just that. (LA Times)

The United States on Tuesday announced it was adding billions of dollars to an ambitious Mexican development project for that country’s southern region and Central America as a way to deter migration.

But neither Washington nor Mexico City announced any headway in the Trump administration’s goal of keeping Central American asylum seekers in Mexico and out of the United States.

In simultaneous announcements in the U.S. and Mexican capitals, the U.S. State Department and Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said the United States has committed to $5.8 billion in public and private money for Central America and an additional $2 billion for southern Mexico.

As the article goes on to point out, this doesn’t translate into any sort of official policy agreement where Mexico promises to keep migrants on their side of the border permanently. Nor does it constitute an official Safe Third Country agreement. But in some ways, it may wind up being functionally the same.

It’s true that we still don’t have a firm agreement with Mexico whereby they would ensure that all the current members of the migrant caravans approaching or waiting at our border would remain in Mexico. (Though the Mexican authorities have been very active in holding the line.) But this week’s announcement of financial aid seems designed to tackle the problem in the long term. Developing industry and infrastructure in southern Mexico means there will be significant job creation, so people seeking asylum from Honduras and Guatemala can find work in Mexico, rather than needing to travel on to the United States.

And if Mexico can do a much better job of securing their border and only allowing access to those legally presenting themselves to request asylum, we’ll both have a much better handle on precisely how many migrants are crossing over and where they are. That’s the sort of arrangement which isn’t going to cost us a ton of money but could significantly reduce the volume of these migrant caravans at the source.

It’s still too early to say how the new Mexican president’s relationship with the United States will play out. But thus far, AMLO has been a pleasant surprise. It’s definitely worth investing a bit of foreign aid for his country if it means continued cooperation.