‘Incentive Game’: Salvadoran President Says Migration Surge Bad For U.S., Worse for Latin American Nations

Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele speaks during the beginning of the delivery of computers to students in public sector educational centers, at the presidential house in San Salvador, El Salvador, on February 22, 2021. (Photo by MARVIN RECINOS / AFP) (Photo by MARVIN RECINOS/AFP via Getty Images)
MARVIN RECINOS/AFP via Getty Images

El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele declared Monday that soaring migration levels at the southern border are bad for the U.S. and even worse for Latin America because it extracts the people vital to building the solid financial conditions that would keep them in their home country.

In an interview with Fox News host Tucker Carlson that aired Tuesday night, Bukele attributed the surge at the U.S.-Mexico border to three reasons: a lack of economic opportunities, the absence of security in Latin America, as well as incentives provided in the United States.

The Salvadoran president took responsibility for his country’s contribution to two of the main drivers of the emigration of his compatriots to the U.S. — a lack of economic opportunities and security.

President Bukele told Fox News:

If you don’t provide for your people — economic opportunities — if your economy is doing bad, if your security is doing bad, people are going leave, and you’re going to go and try to find a rich country, right? They’re not going to leave for Guatemala. They want to go to the United States. So, that makes this country dependent on immigration because you become a net exporter of people. You’re not exporting products or services; you’re exporting people.”

So, that makes [Latin America’s] economy dependent on that because those people send money back to their home countries, which is not a good economic formula. That makes the economies dependent on that. … It’s bad for the United States because immigration will go up, and it’s bad for our country because [of] people leaving the country … so it’s bad for both of us.

“For a country, it’s not profitable to get the people out. First, it’s immoral. I mean, you need to provide for your people,” the Salvadoran president added.

He noted that U.S. promises of benefits for migrants are incentivizing the exodus of people from El Salvador and other Latin American countries.

President Bukele suggested that current U.S. border policies and enforcement of immigration laws, or the lack thereof, are contributing to the ongoing crisis at America’s southern international boundary.

Seemingly referring to some of the promises made by the Biden administration and Democrats in Congress, Carlson asked, “So, but if the richest country in the world says if you cross over the border, we will give you free health care, free education, all these benefits, I mean that’s a draw, isn’t it?”

“Of course, it’s an incentive,” Bukele replied, adding that migrants are willing to risk the dangerous journey north and arrive at a country where they do not speak the primary language over the prospect that “they will receive a lot of things.”

“It’s an incentive game here. And if, for example, if here in El Salvador we have better jobs and better security, it’s less, it’s less of an incentive,” he added.

Bukele stressed that U.S. incentives for immigrants are gutting El Salvador of people who could contribute to the economy in their home without leaving.

“The best thing for both of us is to keep our people here and to provide for our people right here in our country, and that’s what people here want,” he said.

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