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Trump vs. Biden On Border Policy — More Similar Than You’d Think

A top-down view of the U.S.-Mexico border wall.
Charlie Riedel
Associated Press
In this March 2, 2019 photo, a Customs and Border Control agent patrols on the U.S. side of a razor-wire-covered border wall along the Mexico east of Nogales, Ariz.

The rhetoric may differ, but Republicans and Democrats both use Central America as an entry point to the crisis at the border.

As the U.S. confronts an increasing number of migrants crossing its southern border, decades of interventionalist policies have led up to the current moment.

Aviva Chomsky is a history professor and the coordinator of Latin American Studies at Salem State University. She said when it comes to Republicans versus Democrats, there’s not much difference in the approach to Central American countries.

She spoke with Think guest host John McCaa about it.

“Trump and Biden certainly speak very differently, and it’s not just the two men as individuals, I mean Trump was obviously a pretty unusual individual — but the foreign policy establishment was quite content to work with Trump," Chomsky said.

Her view, after years of scholarship, is that going back to the 1800s, the long-term policy for the region has always been to create favorable conditions for foreign investors.

“We’re going to push for economic development in Central America,” she said. “There’s certainly different nuances, but I would say there’s an underlying perspective that doesn’t change."

This includes programs that target modernization and poverty elimination.

"So a lot of aid to Central America, and foreign aid in general, sort of turns foreign countries into a conduit for U.S. taxpayer dollars going into the pockets of U.S. corporations."

She said starting in the early 2000s with President Bush but continuing under President Obama, intervention has only ramped up.

“Increasingly under Trump and, clearly, under Biden because Kamala Harris and Biden and Blinken have already conditioned U.S. aid to Central America and Mexico — and not just aid but vaccines, on their concession to basically allow the U.S. to militarily enforce its border inside their countries.”

In some ways, Chomsky said, "the Central American countries have never been truly independent.”

Aviva Chomsky's book is "Central America’s Forgotten History: Revolution, Violence, and the Roots of Migration."

You can hear the full conversation at where you can subscribe to the daily podcast via engines like Spotify or Apple.

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Paige Phelps is a producer for Think with Krys Boyd.