Broward County Mayor Mark Bogen was right to get worked up last week. He blasted the Trump Administration when it seemed poised to release thousands of migrants detained at the U.S.’s southern border into Broward and Palm Beach Counties each year. (The administration, which never confirmed the reports, has since backed off.)
But in his outrage, Bogen made a rather bogus assertion: “We are not a border state.”
Excuse me, Mayor? Florida is not a border state?
Has Bogen ever stood in an immigration line at Miami International Airport or Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International? Has he visited the federal immigrant detention centers not just in Miami-Dade but in his own county?
Of course Florida is a border state – it’s just that the border here is beach instead of desert.
It doesn’t matter that President Trump won’t be flying migrants from the U.S.-Mexico border into South Florida. Thousands of migrants already come to South Florida each year after their release from detention on the U.S.-Mexico border. Go to towns like Riviera Beach in Palm Beach County. You’ll find five or more Guatemalan families – many of them escaping a climate change-related agricultural apocalypse back in their country – sharing two-bedroom apartments.
And the fact is – a fact that got lost in last week’s panic – they’ve been coming and they’ll keep coming, first to the desert border and then here to the beach border. That’s because natural and man-made plagues keep haunting Guatemala and its neighbors in Central America’s northern triangle, El Salvador and Honduras – the three countries that now account for the vast majority of migrants arriving at the desert border.
Which is why Florida needs to acknowledge that it is a border state – and that it’s got to join border states like California and Texas in urging Trump to get more serious about fixing the dysfunctional nightmare that is the northern triangle.
That effort got a nudge this week when a U.N. commission laid out a long overdue plan for tackling the horrific poverty, corruption and gang violence forcing so many migrants out of the triangle and into the U.S. It was endorsed by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, whose own country deals with the migrant flow. But it could cost as much as $10 billion over 10 years to make it work.
So border states like Florida need to lobby the White House and Congress to throw U.S. support and resources behind the plan. Or a plan like it. More important: they need to persuade Trump himself to lean on the triangle’s leaders to get their appalling acts together so a plan like this stands a fighting chance.
This summer is a pivotal time to start. Guatemala is choosing a new president – and not a moment too soon considering its current presidente, former TV comedian Jimmy Morales, is one of the most laughable heads of state in the hemisphere. How has Morales tackled that climate-change calamity I mentioned? He appointed a crony, political p.r. man Alfonso Alonzo, as environment minister. Alonzo admitted to me recently he has “no environmental experience” whatsoever.
It gets worse, though. The leading candidate for the June 16 presidential election was federal anti-corruption prosecutor Thelma Aldana. She’s done her job so well that Guatemala’s graft-soaked political elite railroaded her ejection from the race this month. Meanwhile, Morales – whose 2015 campaign is under investigation for taking narco-cash (he denies the charge) – is dismantling Guatemala’s U.N.-backed corruption-busting commission, whose work had begun to make the country look like a reform beacon instead of a dark syndicate.
El Salvador will also change leaders next month when Nayib Bukele takes office. His own outsider, anti-corruption campaign helped get him elected president. The only problem: Bukele himself is under federal investigation for money laundering when he was mayor of San Salvador. (He has yet to comment on the case.)
Honduras is an especially noxious case. President Juan Orlando Hernández’s brother, former congressman Juan Antonio Hernández, was arrested last fall in Miami on cocaine-trafficking charges. (He pleaded not guilty but has admitted accepting bribes from traffickers.) The son of Porfirio Lobo, President Hernández’s predecessor, was sentenced to 24 years in prison in the U.S. two years ago for the same crime. A crime, mind you, that fuels the drug gangs that terrorize the Hondurans who flee to the U.S.’s desert border.
And who, if the U.S. doesn’t confront the northern triangle’s rot for once, will show up in greater numbers at Florida’s beach border. With or without Trump’s help.