Border Patrol arrests drop sharply in June
By ELLIOT SPAGAT
Monday, July 2
MCALLEN, Texas (AP) — Border Patrol arrests fell sharply in June to the lowest level since February, according to a U.S. official, ending a streak of four straight monthly increases.
The drop may reflect seasonal trends or it could signal that President Donald Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy to criminally prosecute every adult who enters the country illegally is having a deterrent effect.
The agency made 34,057 arrests on the border with Mexico during June, down 16 percent from 40,344 in May, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the numbers are not yet intended for public release. The June tally is preliminary and subject to change.
Arrests were still more than double from 16,077 in June 2017, but the sharp decline from spring could undercut the Trump administration’s narrative of a border in crisis.
Customs and Border Protection, which includes the Border Patrol, declined to comment on the numbers, saying it doesn’t discuss them as a matter of policy until public release “to ensure consistency and accuracy.”
The administration announced in early May that it was prosecuting every illegal entry, including adults who came with their children. The separation of more than 2,000 children from their parent sparked an international outcry and Trump reversed course on June 20, ordering that families should stay together.
Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan told agents to temporarily stop referring illegal entry arrests to the Justice Department for prosecution if they involve parents unless they had a criminal history or the child’s welfare was in question. His edict came “within hours” of Trump’s directive to avoid splitting families.
McAleenan told reporters last week that border arrests were trending lower in June but said he wouldn’t provide numbers until their public release in early July.
“I believe the focus on border enforcement has had an impact on the crossings,” McAleenan said.
Rising temperatures could also be a major influence, discouraging people from walking in the scorching and potentially lethal heat in much of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Arrests fell from May to June in four of the previous five years, last year being the exception.
Still, the month-to-month percentage decline is notable. It fell in the low single digits in 2014 amid a major surge in illegal crossings and in 2015. Declines approached 20 percent in 2016 and 2013.
Border arrests, an imperfect gauge of illegal crossings, surged during much of last year after falling dramatically in the early months of the Trump administration.
The numbers do not reflect activity at official crossings. The Border Patrol polices between ports of entry, not at them.
Stephen Miller is the architect of family separation at the border. He must go.
Rereading: The Tunnel by Ernesto Sábato
Trump accuses Dems of ‘phony stories’ of sadness on border, seeks delay on immigration fix until after midterms
A Trade War Would Affect Our Economy
President Donald J. Trump signs the Section 232 Proclamations on Steel and Aluminum Imports (Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian)
June 26, 2018 by Desmond Lachman
As the Trump administration seems set on taking us down the path to a full-scale trade war with China, there are those who argue that this will not materially affect the U.S. economy. Sadly, they miss the many indirect channels by which the U.S. economy can be affected by a trade war. They also seem to overlook our very unfortunate experience in the 1930s with the beggar-thy-neighbor policies triggered by the infamous Smoot-Hawley Act.
The basic argument of the trade war optimists is that the cost of increased import tariffs would be small in relation to the size of the U.S. economy. In a worst-case scenario, they argue that even if President Trump were to impose a 10 percent import tariff on $500 billion in Chinese goods, the increased tax on U.S. consumers would amount to only around $50 billion. That amount, they correctly argue, is small beer in relation to a $20 trillion U.S. economy.
The weakness of the trade war optimists’ argument is that it misses the many indirect channels by which a trade war would materially affect the U.S. economy. In particular, it overlooks how the U.S. economy could be damaged by a significant deterioration in the global economy and in world financial markets.
For a start, the trade war optimists overlook the fact that a trade war would almost certainly have a big impact on the Chinese economy, which is very much more export-dependent than is the U.S. economy. This would seem to be especially the case at a time when the Chinese economy is already slowing as its government tries to rein in a credit boom of epic proportions.
A slowing in the Chinese economy is bound to have a material effect on the global economic outlook. After all, China is now the world’s second-largest economy and for long has been its principal engine of economic growth. In addition, its economic fortunes have a major influence on international commodity prices, which are the lifeblood of all too many emerging market economies. And, together with China, these latter economies now account for more than 50 percent of the global economy.
A second point overlooked by the trade war proponents is that escalating trade tensions can have a damaging effect on global and U.S. investor confidence. This would especially be the case in a world of global supply chains that could be seriously disrupted by rising trade barriers. This point becomes all the more relevant when one considers that the trade war is not confined to China but now also includes Canada and Mexico, our NAFTA trade partners, as well as Europe in general and Germany in particular.
Yet another channel through which the United States can be affected by a trade war is through its negative effects on global financial markets both through lower equity prices as well as through higher interest rates on riskier loans. Anyone doubting the potential of this financial market channel need only consider the steady decline in U.S. and global equity prices over the past two weeks since the U.S. began escalating the trade war. They might also look at the recent swoon of emerging market currencies, the strengthening of the U.S. dollar, and the rise in interest rate spreads on high yield risk products.
It is hoped the Trump administration will find a way to defuse the trade war with China before real damage is done to both the global and U.S. economies. However, judging by the administration’s repeated statements that the United States has the upper hand in a trade war with China, I am not holding my breath for this to happen. It would also strike me as running against the natural course of things to expect to see a Chinese president capitulating to U.S. trade pressure.
About the Author
Desmond Lachman is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. He was formerly a Deputy Director in the International Monetary Fund’s Policy Development and Review Department and the chief emerging market economic strategist at Salomon Smith Barney.
Point: Castro’s Survival Plan May Be Crumbling
January 26, 2018 by Roger F. Noriega
The more you know about Cuba’s sorrows and who caused them, the less hopeful you will be that any good will come from a “transition” in April being managed by the Castro clan. However, there is real hope for 11 million Cubans if Castro’s survival plan crumbles — as the regime loses the windfalls it expected from President Obama’s ill-conceived “economic opening” and from its parasitic relationship with Venezuela.
Obama scrapped the reasonable human rights and democracy standards that are U.S. law to grant unilaterally the Castro regime diplomatic recognition and to boost trade and tourism. That policy ignored the fact that the Castros dictate the terms of engagement — if you do business on the island, your partner is the regime, not the people.
Soon after Obama’s photo-op in Havana, it became clear the only business deals to be had in the anemic Cuban economy were with GAESA — a state-owned firm created to channel cash to the military that is managed by Raul Castro’s son-in-law, Gen. Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas. GAESA controls about 80 percent of the Cuban economy. Its tourism branch, GAVIOTA, operates 40 percent of all the island’s hotels and 60 percent of its high-end lodging.
Obama’s shortsighted concessions represented a boon not merely to the regime but directly to the Castro family. Far from making a democratic transition more likely, these sweetheart deals buoyed the Castros’ hopes for a dynastic succession.
However, in June, President Trump blocked those benefits by forbidding transactions with GAESA, in his first step toward reversing the counterproductive Obama measures. Once Trump empowers his own team in the State Department, this continuing policy review may lead to breaking diplomatic relations. After all, under Obama’s strategy, U.S. diplomats assigned to the reopened embassy in Havana practically abandoned the courageous cadre of Castro critics. Today, only a few U.S. diplomats remain in Havana after suspicious “health attacks” did physical damage to two-dozen Americans — likely with the complicity of the regime.
The second unsteady pillar of Castro’s survival strategy is looting Venezuela. The Castro brothers backed the revolutionary Hugo Chavez and engineered the succession of power to Nicolas Maduro in 2013 to ensure the flow of cash and free oil to Cuba.
Thousands of Cubans are part of Maduro’s ruthless internal security force. And, senior Cuban military officers — including Castro’s favorite general Lopez-Callejas — play an integral role in the corrupt regime that has pillaged billions in Venezuelan oil revenue and that profits from cocaine trafficking.
Today, Venezuela’s economy has collapsed, and hunger, violence and repression torment its people. What many observers do not realize is that this tragedy is man-made — straight out of Castro’s playbook. By decimating the private sector, domestic production and food imports, Venezuelans are rendered dependent on the regime or too distracted to resist.
Here, too, the Trump administration is cracking down. Since February 2017, the Treasury Department has levied financial sanctions on Maduro, his vice president and key cronies for their involvement in drug trafficking, terrorism, corruption or repression. Mexico, Colombia, Canada and, recently, the European Union have adopted similar measures to undermine the corrupt regime. A regional diplomatic effort led by South American countries recently rejected a scheme by Maduro to keep power by staging phony elections. Clearly, ending the illegal regime in Caracas will be a fatal blow to the bankrupt dictatorship in Havana.
On April 19, Raul Castro will stage his own political transition, passing the presidency to handpicked successor Miguel Mario Diaz-Canel — whose own hard-line views offer no hope for meaningful reform. Indeed, Castro is expected to retain the leadership of the powerful Communist Party and intends to claim a seat in the National Assembly.
The aging dictator has ensured that the security apparatus will remain in the hands of his son, Alejandro Castro Espin, and that management of the country’s economy will stay in the family.
However, these best-laid plans may be undone by the reversal of the Obama economic concessions and the disintegration of the Maduro regime in Venezuela.
In addition to economic sanctions, the Trump administration should adopt innovative programs to communicate with the Cuban people and to help the country’s independent political activists prepare for an orderly transition to self-government. At long last, we must reject the illusion that the Castros have any right to hold power or any interest in reforming Cuba.
About the Author
Roger F. Noriega was U.S. ambassador to the OAS and assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs from 2001 to 2005. He is a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
Counterpoint: Leadership Transition in Cuba Promises Continuity in a Country Ready for Change
January 26, 2018 by Roberta Braga
A historic transition is fast approaching in Cuba. On April 19, 2018, for the first time in 60 years, a Castro is slated to step down and a new leader to take the helm. Though this presidential transition will symbolize a passing of the torch to a new generation, it is unlikely to yield major changes to Cuba’s internal politics or foreign policy.
A transformation of its economy to a more open and outward looking model is more probable, but unlikely to happen until much further into the future — a result of the National Assembly and domestic politics, and less on the president’s influence.
Miguel Diaz-Canel, vice president of the Council of the State, is most likely to step up to the presidency in April. Although a supposedly moderate politician who will represent a new perspective separate from the “old guard,” Diaz-Canel is unexpected to be the beacon for change some hope for, but rather the promise of continuity.
Raul Castro first announced his intentions to step down as president of Cuba in 2013, four years after succeeding his brother in 2008 and after serving two five-year terms. If and when he does so in April, he will relinquish some of his visibility and his post as commander in chief of Cuba’s armed forces, per the constitution. This, however, will not mean less influence on the goings-on in government and the country.
He is likely to remain the head of the Communist Party and a formidable political figure, as symbolized by his selection on January 21 to be a candidate for the National Assembly from the Segundo Frente municipality in Santiago de Cuba.
But whether or not a leadership transition comes with changes on the political front, where we may see some change — at least in the long term — is on the economic front. Here, a younger generation of entrepreneurs will play a part.
When Castro first took power, Cuba was stuck importing nearly 80 percent of its food, and Cubans were scraping by with salaries barely able to cover even the most basic of necessities. Though the economy turned after the enactment of new policies that promised an opening for private enterprise and cooperatives through decentralization and more foreign investment, today the economy again finds itself on the way down.
Reforms have stalled, the government has halted the issuance of new licenses in some work categories, and the situation in Venezuela has sharply affected Cuba’s access to oil. And after the U.S. government’s issuance of stricter restrictions on U.S. commercial interactions and tourism to the island, Cuban entrepreneurs are already feeling the belt tighten.
To turn Cuba’s economy around, a leadership transition in April will have to pave the way for a greater opening to foreign investment, a streamlining of processes for proposals, new openings for the private sector, less stringent regulations, and a more efficient tax system. In the long run, if the government can devalue the official exchange rate and adjust pricing systems, we may even see a unification of the dual-currency system, a promise that has hung in the air for a long while.
So, though likely not overnight, change may still be on the horizon for Cuba. April 19 is a beginning. It is a symbolic break from Castros at the forefront of Cuba’s political and economic outlook. Don’t expect warm relations with the Trump administration, but those in the Cuban-American community — and some in the Congress — may feel a weight has been lifted, despite controversial comments by Diaz-Canel vis-a-vis the United States late last year.
In the end, although the next president is unlikely to take Cuba in an entirely new direction politically, we may see a new economic opening in the long run. The next generation will certainly continue to play a part, with cuentapropistas and an innovative private sector at the helm. With this transition, a new, albeit probably narrow, path for Cuba may appear.
About the Author
Roberta Braga is a program assistant at the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center of the Atlantic Council.