Even before Election Day 2016, I knew 2017 was going to be an intense year at work. Still, it exceeded expectations. This year I traveled to Colombia three times, to the U.S.-Mexico border twice, and the Mexico-Guatemala border once. I met with about fifty congressional offices. I co-hosted a big conference and led a congressional delegation. I spoke to at least 15 audiences. I coded two websites. And I wrote a lot: at least 40 publicly available articles and reports.
Of all that writing, here’s the 20 pieces I’m proudest of at the end of the year. Many of these have co-authors who deserve most of the credit.
(And remember that I’m just one of several people working just as intensely at WOLA right now. Please support us with a donation so we can keep it up in 2018.)
- “Putting the Pieces Together: A Global Guide to U.S. Security Aid Programs,” with Sarah Kinosian at WOLA’s website, April 27, 2017.
It took a couple of years, but I built a huge database of 107 programs that the U.S. government uses to aid foreign militaries and police forces. This report highlights the main findings. And in 188 pages (!) it describes each program and how to find out more about it.
- “‘Colombia doesn’t know which Trump it will have to face,’” in English at this site and in Spanish at El Espectador, October 28, 2017.
A wide-ranging interview about U.S. policy toward Colombia, conducted over e-mail, with journalist Cecilia Orozco at the country’s second-most-circulated daily.
- “Rescuing Colombia’s Post-Conflict Transitional Justice System,” at WOLA’s website, November 29, 2017.
An explanation of seven big concerns with Colombia’s post-conflict system for dealing with the worst human rights abusers. As a non-lawyer trying to explain this in plain English, this was hard for me to write but I think it turned out well.
- “Mexico’s Southern Border – Security, Central American Migration, and U.S. Policy,” with Maureen Meyer and Hannah Smith at WOLA’s website, June 29, 2017.
We visited the Mexico-Guatemala border, where Tabasco abuts the Petén, in February. Here is what we learned.
- “We’re Not Binge-Watching Netflix.” At this site, July 31, 2017.
A heartfelt objection to the notion, voiced by Gen. John Kelly and other Trump officials, that American citizens have no standing to question what their military, law enforcement, and intelligence agencies are doing.
- “Confronting Colombia’s Coca Boom Requires Patience and a Commitment to the Peace Accords,” at WOLA’s website, March 13, 2017.
Written in anticipation a U.S. announcement that Colombian coca-growing had jumped again in 2016. The message here is “the reasons for this are complicated—don’t blame it on the peace process and don’t insist on a return to spraying herbicides over places where people live.”
- “Lessons from San Diego’s Border Wall,” with Maureen Meyer at WOLA’s website, December 14, 2017.
I started writing this as a brief memo about the ridiculousness of the border-wall prototypes the Trump administration was building outside San Diego. But by drawing on things we learned during a May visit to San Diego and Tijuana, I ended up ballooning it into a good report.
- “Why What’s Happening in Honduras Matters,” at this site, December 16, 2017.
Why it’s so tragic that the U.S. government failed to take a stand against “illiberal democracy” after Honduras’s botched election.
- “The Most Important Trends in Colombia’s Drug Policy, Explained,” at WOLA’s website, September 12, 2017.
I wrote this as a memo to Senate staff before a hearing on Colombia’s drug policy. Maybe because it’s so brief, it was the piece about which I heard the most positive feedback all year.
- “Four Common Misconceptions about U.S.-bound Drug Flows through Mexico and Central America,” at WOLA’s website, June 20, 2017.
This brief compilation of data about how drugs are actually getting to the United States also got a lot of positive comments and web traffic.
- “President Trump’s Anti-Immigrant Agenda: Tracking Where Things Stand in Congress,” at WOLA’s website, first posted September 13, 2017 and last updated December 20, 2017.
One day I had a bright idea: “why don’t we make a web resource with the most up-to-date information about current legislation on the border wall, Border Patrol and ICE increases, and DACA?” Many, many hours later, we published this resource, which I’ve since updated several times to reflect the latest changes on Capitol Hill.
- “Senate Reverses Most of Trump Administration’s Proposed Cuts in Latin America Assistance,” at WOLA’s website, October 5, 2017.
Goes over U.S. aid to Colombia, Central America, and Mexico in 2016, 2017, and, for 2018, the Trump White House proposal, the House bill, and the Senate bill. As there’s no 2018 budget yet, this is still current.
- “Colombia’s peace accords point the way to a solution. But will they be implemented?” at the Brookings Institution Order From Chaos blog, April 28, 2017.
In which I worry about the short-term, quick-fix nature of Colombia’s post-conflict approach to coca cultivation.
- “Throwing Money at the Wall: An Overview of the Trump Administration’s Border Wall Funding Requests,” at WOLA’s website, March 31, 2017.
A one-stop compendium of everything we knew at the time about Trump’s border-wall plans, how much they’d cost, and why they were a big waste of money.
- “Menos plata de Trump para la paz de Colombia: ¿qué tanto hay que preocuparse?” at Colombia’s Razón Pública, June 5, 2017.
In discussing the Trump White House’s proposed 2018 aid cut and why it probably won’t succeed, I give a thorough rundown of what’s actually in U.S. aid to Colombia right now.
- “How to Protect DACA While Actually Securing the Border,” at WOLA’s website, September 13, 2017.
In which I say, “OK, you want to look tough on securing the U.S.-Mexico border? Here are some smart things you can do.”
- “Four Common Misconceptions about Increasing the Size of the U.S. Border Patrol,” at WOLA’s website, September 13, 2017.
So much coverage of Trump’s border proposals have focused on the “wall.” But he also wants to hire 5,000 new Border Patrol agents. This shows why that’s a lousy idea.
- “Some of the Many Reasons Why the United States Should Keep Supporting Colombia’s Peace Accord,” at WOLA’s website, January 27, 2017.
I couldn’t believe I was finding myself having to explain why “a war stopping is good.” But we were in the first week of the Trump administration, and the new Secretary of State was voicing doubts about whether Colombia’s peace process was something the U.S. government should “continue to support.”
- “What is the ‘Trump Effect’ on Migration? It’s Too Early to Draw Conclusions,” at WOLA’s website, April 17, 2017.
Notable mainly because I correctly predicted that, after plummeting following Trump’s inauguration, U.S.-bound migration would “return to a level that is a rough average of the current extremely low amount and late 2016’s extreme highs.” That’s where we are now.
- “Priorities for 2018,” at this site, December 22, 2017.
I just posted this yesterday: a reflection on the issues that will probably dominate work on defense and security in Latin America next year.