Doctor and renowned diplomat Condoleezza Rice, who served as Secretary of State during the administration of former President George W. Bush (2005-2009), was in an interview with the Bush Center along with Holly Kuzmich and addressed in a very comprehensive way the complex case of immigration in the United States.
Condoleezza Rice touched on the most current immigration issues such as the crisis in the Southern Border, the need for a comprehensive immigration reform and the role of the U.S. to combat the structural problems in Central America that would help alleviate the high migratory flow from the region known as the Northern Triangle, formed by the countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
“Why are people leaving Central America?,” Kuzmich asked Condoleezza Rice, who responded that one of the reasons is the insecurity in the Northern Triangle and that the United States must necessarily help and work with these countries to improve their structural problems.
The case of Colombia is a success story. The government of Álvaro Uribe Vélez effectively confronted the irregular armed groups and Marxist guerrillas that terrorized a large part of the South American country.
“Now, it well may be that these gangs are somewhat less dangerous in the sense that they are really paramilitary organizations in the same way. But what it took was leaders like Uribe in Colombia who were willing to take them on. It took U.S. assistance, U.S. intelligence assistance, U.S. military assistance, U.S. training assistance, and really support for that country to take its streets back. And so I think something like that is going to have to be done in the Northern Triangle,” explained Rice.
Enforcing the border
Condoleezza Rice also spoke of the importance of having clear rules of the game at the border to avoid problems such as the developing border crisis in the southern part of the country. She also criticized the Biden administration for its open borders rhetoric that caused an increase in migration from Central America to the United States.
“No country can exist for very long if they can’t control its border. And so I’m very much sympathetic with those who say that we have to have border enforcement. People have to enforce our laws. I think we have to be careful not to give the impression that if people get to the United States, that they’re going to stay. That causes the kind of a flood of people that I think we’re seeing right now.”
However, Condoleezza Rice recognizes that the border crisis is excessively complex because of the humanitarian situation. Therefore, before making decisions, the reality of the children and desperate parents who crossed the border under the worst circumstances must be analyzed.
The former Secretary of State argued that another problem is that Central American citizens are not the only ones listening to President Biden’s messages. The Coyotes, those who smuggle migrants illegally, listen to the President’s speeches and use it as propaganda to sell citizens of other countries “the American dream”. This also causes problems at the border, according to Condoleezza Rice.
Condoleezza Rice and an ode to immigration
While in the first part of the interview the former Secretary of State spoke of the importance of having a secure border and of carrying out a series of policies to help Central American countries combat their structural problems, Condoleezza Rice also spoke highly of immigration and said that it is “the secret weapon of the United States”.
“When we talk about immigration, I think it’s really important to recognize that what we’re looking for in immigrants is people who are willing to take the risk to leave places that they have known, sometimes to leave family behind,” expalined Rice. “They want to take advantage of the fact that in America, it doesn’t matter where you came from. It matters where you’re going. And we need to make certain that we’re continuing to regenerate ourselves and make ourselves more vibrant by bringing those immigrants here because maybe they understand the American dream better than a lot of people who were born here and take it for granted.”
The former Secretary of State spoke of the fact that the United States continues to be an attractive destination, unlike other countries, because migrants can opt for citizenship over the years, making it possible for their families to become Americans within a generation. In the end, says Condoleezza Rice, these are the migrants who create businesses, who provide labor and adapt to the American culture by loving the country of freedoms.
Finally, the diplomat addressed the need for a comprehensive immigration reform that considers all the actors involved in border security issues.
“When you look at immigration reform, you have to take it from the perspective that people come at the immigration problem with different sets of interests and different sensibilities. And what you have to try to do is construct a policy that takes all of those into consideration. So there are the border control and border enforcement people. They have to be a part of any immigration reform,” argued Condoleezza Rice.
“You can’t just say, ‘Well, we’re not going to talk to those people who care about borders.’ You have to deal with the people who know that we’ve got 10, 11, 12 million people living in the shadows, including the DACA kids who through no fault of their own were brought to the United States as children. And so you have to say, ‘What are we going to do about the people who are already here?’ We’re not the kind of country that’s going to deport people who are already here.”
The former secretary said that good immigration reform, in addition to the above two points, must also address the issue of citizenship and policies to end the structural problems in Central America.