Letter: Foreign aid, rather than travel ban, is key to national security

Feb 08, 2017

With a noticeable surge of political comments in letters to the editor, I thought I'd venture into similar territory, but instead examine foreign aid and national security.

The recent transition of power in the U.S. government has sparked debate over the status of national security that has been fueled by President Donald Trump’s amorphous fear tactics.

Last week, the president enacted an executive order that suspended the State Department’s Refugee Assistance Program. The controversial order bans immigrants and visa holders from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. for 90 days.

My strong opposition toward the refugee ban was also met with a position that the country should be doing more to address global poverty since the two are irrefutably linked.

Global poverty and national security share a relationship not well known by the public. Many people believe that investments in foreign aid serve no relative purpose or uphold the myth that poor nations stay poor while ultimately ignoring the success stories. On average, Americans estimate that 25 percent of the federal budget goes towards foreign aid, when, in reality, less than 1 percent is assisting the world’s poor. But, other than the obvious humanitarian imperative of foreign aid, it is also in our national interest.

How? Poverty often creates weak states. Weak states can produce desperate individuals who are more vulnerable to recruitment by terror networks. When countries move up the ladder and away from terrorism and violence, international peace and security is strengthened.

Nonprofit organizations, like The Borgen Project, are working to address global issues by operating at the political level to advance poverty-reduction legislation. Recently, the Reinforcing Education Accountability in Development (READ) Act passed in the House of Representatives, proving that there is power in advocacy. The bill promotes universal education for millions of children globally while protecting U.S. national security interests.

The president has sent mixed messages on foreign assistance, so it remains unclear how he plans to address it. In the meantime, the public can call the office of their Congressional representatives and voice their support for foreign aid, protection of the International Affairs budget, and/or reversing the ban on refugees.


Alisa Yamaguchi
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