America’s illegal immigration problems were worsening steadily until former president Donald Trump instituted tougher measures including revised asylum procedures requiring, among other things, asylum seekers to remain in Mexico while their cases were being considered and additional border wall construction. He didn’t solve the problem but at least he stemmed the flood somewhat. Then along came President Joe Biden who, immediately after his inauguration, made good on his campaign promises to reverse the Trump restrictions, halt border wall construction and permit children who could make it across the border, accompanied or not, to remain in the United States. In fact, he had urged them to come and so they did. One of the election campaign themes heard at rallies was “Say it loud, say it clear. Everyone is welcome here.”

The predictable result of this was a flood of immigrant and asylum seekers, nearly 180,000 this past April alone, fleeing poverty and violence, mostly from Central America’s three northern triangle countries, including large numbers of children, trying to cross our southern border, overwhelming border facilities, our ability to deal with the surge and creating chaotic conditions. Mr. Biden, of course, blamed the mess on Trump and our broken immigration and asylum policies. But these policies have been broken for decades and Biden alone bears the blame for the chaos caused by his precipitous actions in reversing policies without a plan in place for dealing with the foreseeable consequences of those actions.

Mr. Biden insisted that the border was not open and people should not attempt to cross the border illegally but the message received in the villages of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador was quite the opposite. It was that the new Biden Administration welcomed immigrants and children would not be turned away. That’s all the coyotes needed to hear to rev up their lucrative human smuggling business.

President Biden’s plan for dealing with the crisis was to appoint his Vice-president, Kamala Harris, to take charge of the problem, presumably so he could focus on his domestic agenda. Instead of starting at the border where the crisis of concern actually is located, she was dispatched to study the root causes of why the migrants leave home to make the perilous journey to come here. She could have saved the nation the expense of the 1400-mile trip and learned the reasons why, if she didn’t already know, by talking to real experts here and at the border instead of talking with Guatemalan and Mexican politicians who told her that the solution was many more dollars in U.S. aid.

The problems which cause people to flee their homes include grinding poverty, gang violence and corruption. The countries of the Northern Triangle are essentially failed states where these conditions are endemic. Their governments rely heavily on remittances sent home by people who made it to the United States and have jobs there. The Central American governments really have little motivation for ending the exportation of their people because they need the money they send home. We have poured money into these countries for decades with little to show for it because the culture doesn’t change and what little money that trickles down to the poor doesn’t change much, either. And even if it did change their lives slightly for the better, they would still want to come to the United States because life is so much better here. Who can blame them? Ms. Harris seems to be of the view that people don’t want to leave home, but that’s somewhat naïve. Unless one lives among the few affluent and, of course, members of the ruling class, in these countries, life can be pretty miserable and yes, I’ve been to Guatemala and other Central American countries. More aid is not going to change things that much and how much would be enough? There are many nations with similar problems. We cannot solve all their problems

What, by the way, are the Vice-president’s qualifications for this assignment? She was trained as a lawyer and worked as a prosecutor in California. Her political experience is limited. She served as California’s attorney-general and for four years as a U.S. Senator before being selected as Mr. Biden’s running mate. She has no experience in foreign policy or economics. She is a politician and the problem at the border must be address by political action and soon. It cannot wait while she studies the problems 1400 miles away in Central America which are not amenable to easy or swift solutions, if they are solvable at all. Her time would have been far better spent studying the situation at the southern border, conferring with real experts and recommending remedial actions to President Biden and Congress. Right now, border security trumps foreign aid and nation-building, which would amount to little more than a gesture.

Americans need immediate action to end the border chaos and polls indicate that they are tired of waiting.

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