A Bill to Increase Aid to Colombia, Guyana, Brazil to help with the refugee crisis

This bill provides foreign aid to help these countries deal with the refugee crisis in their countries, largely triggered by the collapse of Venezuela and the resulting refugee crisis.

This refugee crisis is quite large. According to Povash Bover, in February 2019

Venezuela has already seen some 3 million of its citizens flee amid the extreme political and economic turbulence of recent years. Four out of every 10 people still in Venezuela want to leave. The United Nations estimates there will be a total of 5.3 million Venezuelan refugees and migrants by the end of this year, rivaling the scale of the Syrian refugee crisis and stretching the capacity of Venezuela’s neighbors to their limits. The government of Colombia predicts that by 2021 it may host 4 million Venezuelans, and it would take $9 billion to support them.


Pro Arguments

Support the refugees. Venezuelan refugees are dying and need the support of foreign governments if they are to live.

Stability in aided countries.  The political stability Colombia, Guyana, and Brazil could be threatened by being overwhelmed by so many countries.

Reduced illegal immigration. If refugees don’t stay in the region they will likely illegally immigrate to the US.

Con Arguments

Costs.  $1.3 billion is a good amount of money to spend and it would likely be diverted from other foreign aid programs.

Magnet. Providing financial support to regional countries will encourage more refugees to leave Venezuela.

Foreign aid fails. We don’t we go into all the details here, but foreign aid has many problems that have been detailed elsewhere — corruption, a lack of effectiveness, undermining local economies, diversion to the military.


VENEZUELA REGIONAL CRISIS (Updated 2019). This is the updated report from the US Agency for International Development on the Venezuelan refugee crisis.

VENEZUELA REFUGEE CRISIS: 4 MILLION HAVE FLED COLLAPSING NATION, UN SAYS, IN ONE OF WORLD’S BIGGEST-EVER MIGRATIONS (2019) More than 4 million Venezuelans have now fled the beleaguered South American nation, according to a new report published by agencies at the United Nations. The refugees are fleeing acute financial crises and political instability in the oil-rich country, where inflation and unemployment are high and quality of life has plummeted. Those who remain face chronic food, fuel and medical shortages, routine power cuts and spreading epidemics. The country is also currently mired in a power struggle between embattled President Nicolas Maduro and the opposition, led by self-declared Interim President Juan Guaido. The report—published by the UN refugee agency and the International Organization for Migration—said the rate of exodus had rocketed since the end of 2015, when the figure stood at 695,000. In just seven months since November 2018, the total number of Venezuelan refugees increased by 1 million, the agencies reported.

Colombia’s Radical Plan to Welcome Millions of Venezuelan Migrants (2019). Thus far, Colombia has opened its doors as millions of people have flocked to its border. Politicians here know there is no way to keep these migrants out, so instead of railing against its neighbor or raising the drawbridge, they have focused on integrating those who arrive, efforts that have been commended by aid agencies. But with almost 1.5 million Venezuelans here, equivalent to about 3 percent of Colombia’s population, and more arriving every day, the country may soon be entirely overwhelmed….The UN has said it expects the numbers of migrants to become comparable with those crossing the Mediterranean in 2015. By 2021, the Colombian foreign minister has said, his country may be playing host to 4 million Venezuelans. The figures are shocking in any circumstance, let alone for a country that has experienced little incoming migration in recent memory…. This influx could present an opportunity for economic growth in Colombia. If properly registered and settled, the new arrivals could start small businesses, generating employment and income across the country. “There is vast literature in economics showing how migrants are entrepreneurs at a much higher rate than locals,” said Dany Bahar, a Venezuelan-born economist who studies migration at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. “The act of migrating itself is an act of risk taking, and that’s the kind of profile of an entrepreneur.” Colombia has also made a major effort to get Venezuelan children in school. The government understands, aid groups often note, the long-term dangers that result when a generation of youths have to fend for themselves on the streets in a country that already struggles with drug trafficking and violence. In 2017, a decree allowed all foreign children to study in Colombian primary schools…. But here, the pressures are beginning to show. Many schools in the border zone have taken in up to 300 students without adding new teachers. As migrants typically settle in the poorest areas of cities, schools with the fewest resources are bearing the heaviest load. And because Venezuelans have access to only limited emergency care at Colombian hospitals, waiting rooms and wards at clinics across the country have become overcrowded. With local housing stock unable to cope with the numbers of newcomers, many migrants can be found sleeping in town plazas Muñoz said the government had prioritized support to parts of the country that had the most migrants. But managing these huge numbers remains a challenge, raising worries that Venezuelan doctors or engineers unable to find work will end up picking coffee on Colombian farms, depressing wages for everyone; that children will be diverted into drug gangs; and that untreated health problems could spread.

Venezuela is a Refugee Crisis (2019). he current political upheaval in Venezuela was preceded by Latin America’s worst-ever refugee crisis. By most estimates, several thousand Venezuelans are fleeing the country every day. Most are going to neighboring Colombia. But every country in the region is impacted. The numbers are massive. Over 3 million people have fled the country over the last few years. This is about 10% of the country’s total population. In recent months, the numbers of people fleeing the country has intensified. By some estimates, 25,000 people are fleeing the country every single day.

These three are all similar to the first argument article —

Venezuela’s refugee exodus is the biggest crisis in the hemisphere (2018)

The Venezuela Regional Migration Crisis (2019)

Some Comments on the bill

(1) You should not focus your arguments on whether or not there is a refugee crisis. That is a given.
(2) $1.3 billion dollars really isn’t that much given the size of the crisis. It doesn’t seem like this bill would do very much.
(3) There is a big debate about whether or not foreign aid is effective, and evidence supporting that debate is below. If you want to argue against the bill, that is a good place to start.


It’s Time to Treat Venezuela Like a Protracted Refugee Crisis (2019). This article argues that international actors need to provide more support for regional actors that are supporting the refugees.

Latin America is facing a refugee crisis — Why it matters that we call fleeing Venezuelan Refuges, Not Migrants. (2019). The subtitle of the article is important: It argues that people are not leaving Venezuela in order to be a bit better off economically but because they have to.

USAID Should Work With Partners To Provide Direct Aid To Refugees Along Venezuelan Border (2019). Global Post: U.S. is Gifting Venezuelans Humanitarian Aid but is Falling Short of the Target
Eric Lee, fellow with the Rotary Foundation and principal-agent for multiple Rotary International humanitarian project “According to press releases, fact sheets, and administrator statements from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.S. is emphasizing efforts to pre-position direct aid for Venezuelans in warehouses along the border in Colombia and Brazil or stockpile supplies in shipping containers at the Dutch island of Curacao. … Pre-positioning relief is only part of the solution, and USAID should provide a portion of their direct aid to organizations currently helping refugees on the border. Undue emphasis on pre-positioning is worsening a stand-off with the current Venezuelan regime, hurting the chances of smaller ancillary aid shipments from entering Venezuela, and fails to appreciate the needs [of] refugees who have already fled. … Besides causing the regime to clamp down on border security, this strategy [to pre-position relief] fails to appreciate the growing needs of civic and faith-based organizations shouldering the brunt of refugee pressures in neighboring countries. … The refugee crisis resulting from Venezuela’s economic collapse is getting worse by the day. Pre-positioned aid is not making its way to people inside Venezuela, and it’s not helping refugees who’ve made it out of Venezuela. USAID missions should make a more concerted effort to work with international relief, faith-based, and civic organizations to provide direct aid to refugees along the border with Venezuela” (4/2).

CROSSING THE BORDER: THE CONSEQUENCES OF VENEZUELA’S REFUGEE CRISIS FOR THE COLOMBIA-FARC PEACE ACCORDS (2018). he arrival of Venezuelan refugees in Colombia presents two threats to the implementation of the Colombia peace process. First, by placing economic strain on the already resource-poor Eastern regions of the country, the entry of refugees prevents the state from honoring its obligations to those harmed by the civil conflict. Second, by presenting the administration of Juan Manuel Santos with a difficult choice over whether to accept refugees, the crisis strengthens the political opponents of the FARC deal.

The economic impact of Venezuelan refugees’ entry into Eastern Colombia poses a challenge to long term rural reforms. Although much of the focus on the Colombian government’s 2016 accord with FARC has been on dissolving armed groups and having them turn over their weapons, the terms of the agreement also include components for longer term peace. Land reform, aimed at reintegrating FARC members into the economy and alleviating the rural poverty that enabled rebel groups to emerge in the first place, is one such component. Despite the government’s best intentions to address the problems at the root of the Colombian civil conflict, these structural reforms have stalled. Joaquin Sanchez, commission chief of the International Verification Commission on Human Rights in Colombia, reported in February 2018 that only 5% of the integral land reforms had been completed. It is in this environment, where the needs of Colombian citizens are vastly underserved, that the government must accommodate a surge of refugees.

‘Their Country Is Being Invaded’: Exodus of Venezuelans Overwhelms Northern Brazil (2018). This article makes the general point that so many Venezuelans are fleeing into Brazil that it is undermining the country.

Foreign Aid Makes America Safer (2018). This article argues foreign aid is on balance beneficial. It is a good article to answer criticisms of foreign.

General Problems in Venezuela

Venezuela: region’s infectious crisis is a disaster of hemispheric proportions (2019). This article doesn’t say we need to provide aid to Venezuela but it does says there are systemic health problems in Venezuela due to inequality and disease spread.


A Venezuelan Refugee Crisis (2018)  This article is interesting because while it says that the Venezuelan refugee crisis threatens US interests that the US should make efforts to keep the refugees in Venezuela. Providing aid to countries outside the region to help the refugees would obviously encourage the refugees to leave.

Made by Maduro: The Humanitarian Crisis in Venezuela and US Policy Responses (2019).  This article is not specific to providing foreign aid, but suggests that some US action is needed to help with the humanitarian crisis. It could, perhaps, be used to argue for an alternative.

More aid won’t’ stop the refugee crisis (2019)

Kill Them with Kindness: Leading up to the Lie Maduro Burned US Aid Trucks (2019)

Countries are right to ban USAID (2014)

When Humanitarian Aid Is Used as a Weapon to Bring Down Regimes (2019)

USAID – Waste and Mismanagement Exposed (2013)

Why international aid so often falls short — and sometimes makes things worse (2017)