Unlike Mexico, which feigns poverty, nations like Honduras and Salvador really are poor. Their idea of foreign policy is to visit Washington and put on the big sob story about how they really need the remittances from their citizens squatting in the US and sending back lots of money, so don't deport any more. Shown here, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick comforts a teary-eyed Honduran who apparently doesn't want to go home.
Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was recently in Washington begging for an end to deportations. (ICE estimates that 70 percent of the one million Hondurans in the US are here illegally.) Honduras expects to receive $2.8 billion in remesas this year, more than a quarter of its GDP, and Zelaya doesn't want the easy money to stop.
You can't blame him too much. Who doesn't like a fat allowance that comes in the mail and you don't have to do anything to get it? Free money — the best!
While attention is focused on the U.S. battle to stem the tide of illegal immigrants from Mexico, a federal effort to crack down on Hondurans is threatening the Honduran economy and sparking a crisis in U.S.-Honduran relations.
Honduran President Manuel Zelaya visited Washington on Monday to lobby Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for a moratorium on what he called "massive and selective" deportations of Hondurans in the U.S. illegally. He promised that the Honduran government would strenuously defend the rights of Honduran immigrants, without elaborating. [...]
"Remittances are like an addiction," said Juan Jose Garcia, a remittances consultant in San Salvador, El Salvador. "Remittances feed consumption, the banking system and the stability of society." [Honduras Fears US Immigration Crackdown, MSNBC 7/13/07]
When the stability of a society depends on the kindness of expatriates, the homies are skating on thin ice. It would be better for Central American nations to work on sensible development rather than wait for the checks to arrive, since they could easily stop coming for many reasons.
Indeed, there have been various studies showing that remittances are not a good development tool, that recipients often develop a welfare mindset which prevents actual economic progress from occurring.
Once again, tough love is the greater kindness.