Foreign Policy Blogs

Bush: America in the Americas

Elihu Root, a leading American International Lawyer argued in 1910 for the rights of Foreign Nationals. In states in which they were not citizens, there was an obligation under Customary International Law that national law must treat aliens as equal to that of their own citizens, as well, that there is an International Minimum Standard of treatment for these individuals beyond national laws.

Many of the ideas that Root promoted lead to the establishment of standards and practices throughout the world regarding the treatment of foreign citizens abroad. Initially these customary laws were sought to protect post-colonial investors from expropriation of their investments, but in the modern era the trend of Non-Legal Migration to developed nations has lead to a reinterpretation of how laws are applied to foreign nationals. The current trend is evident in almost every city and town in the US, in which a great number of non-documented individuals are settling inside countries such as the United States every year, every week and even every day.

Stephen Dinan of the Washington Times points out in his article "Bush Stresses Immigration" that President Bush's tour of Latin America in the last 5 days is focused on the increasing trade between Central America and South America, reducing drug trafficking and "legal" immigration to the United States. The new trade agreement between the US and many Central American countries shows that while trade and aid is a focus of Bush's reconstituted Americas policy, places such as Guatemala are more focused on their citizens abroad in the US than what benefits a possible Free Trade Agreement with the US can provide. With 1 in 10 Guatemalans being born outside Guatemala according to the White House, the treatment of US Nationals in Guatemala with new investments after the Free Trade Agreement may be a secondary issue compared to the number of Guatemalans crossing into the US and residing ultimately on US soil.

"The United States will enforce our law. It's against the law to hire somebody who's in our country illegally, and we are a nation of law," – George Bush

In the article "Bush backs Bogota" the focus in places like Colombia is not on immigration but on renewed aid towards fighting poverty and drug trafficking, as well as increasing trade among the US with its South American neighbours. The trend seems to be the focus of much of Bush's tour of South and Central America with a new fuels agreement between Bush and Brazil's President Lula da Silva and a promise of more aid and trade to Guatemala, where the US has been second to the EU in aid to Central America for much of the Bush administration. Immigration, while likely the most pressing issue to face US-Latin American relations to date, has been somewhat neglected by the focus on trade, aid, drugs and above all protests by groups in each of the countries Mr. Bush has visited. The most evident and persistent criticism of the President comes from Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, who has chosen to tour on an Anti-Bush stance absorbing much of the media attention during the US President's tour of Latin America.

The real focus on the immigration debate will likely come with the eagerness of many inside the US to open up a proper dialogue with the newly elected President Felipe Calderon of Mexico in addressing the challenges which burden the legal, economic and social structures inside the US and Mexico. In the article "Napolitano to Bush", Governor Napolitano of Arizona urges not only President Bush, but President Calderon to achieve economic goals which are "realistic, flexible and innovative" during Bush's meetings with Calderon at the end of his Latin American tour this week. With much of the focus on Iraq and the War on Terror in the last 8 years by Mr. Bush, there is a current resurge in interest in the US Border since last summer. While there may not be enough time for constructive changes before the next US Presidential election, there is a generally positive impression of Mr. Calderon in the US in the present view of many Americans, or at least via CNN and much of the US mainstream media. The results of Bush's Mexico meeting remains to be seen, but it seems that Mr. Bush who began his Presidency on the issue of Mexico, will likely attempt to end it as well on the issues surrounding trade, aid, drugs and Latin America and if not by choiceperhaps immigration as well.



Richard Basas
Richard Basas

Richard Basas, a Canadian Masters Level Law student educated in Spain, England, and Canada (U of London MA 2003 LL.M., 2007), has worked researching for CSIS and as a Reporter for the Latin America Advisor. He went on to study his MA in Latin American Political Economy in London with the University of London and LSE. Subsequently, Rich followed his career into Law focusing mostly on International Commerce and EU-Americas issues. He has worked for many commercial and legal organisations as well as within the Refugee Protection Community in Toronto, Canada, representing detained non-status indivduals residing in Canada. Rich will go on to study his PhD in International Law.

Areas of Focus:
Law; Economics and Commerce; Americas; Europe; Refugees; Immigration