Immigration Reform Advocates Look to El Salvador

The country is offering free passports to skilled immigrants in what some say is the opposite of current American policy.
Immigration Reform Advocates Look to El Salvador
President of El Salvador Nayib Bukele speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the Gaylord National Resort Hotel And Convention Center in National Harbor, Md., on Feb. 22, 2024. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
Matthew Lysiak

The president of El Salvador is offering 5,000 free passports to highly skilled immigrants while also granting them full citizenship and tax benefits in a bid he believes will improve the small Central American nation.

President Nayib Bukele made the offer in an April 6 social media post on X, formerly Twitter, writing that the offer is open to “highly skilled scientists, engineers, doctors, artists, and philosophers from abroad.”

As part of the offer, Mr. Bukele says that individuals and families who agree to make the move will be awarded full citizenship and tax benefits, including in commercial-value items like equipment, software, and intellectual property—all of which he claims would benefit his country.

“This represents less than 0.1% of our population, so granting them full citizen status, including voting rights, poses no issue,” wrote Mr. Bukele. “Despite the small number, their contributions will have a huge impact on our society and the future of our country.

“Stay tuned for more details,” he added.

El Salvador has also stiffened penalties for those who enter the country illegally and engage in human trafficking, potentially facing up to 12 years. Further, organizations found to be assisting illegal immigrants who break laws in El Salvador risk being shut down by the government.

The Central American country’s approach raised eyebrows in the United States, where current immigration policy stands in stark contrast by incentivizing unskilled and impoverished foreigners to cross illegally through a porous open border, according to E.J. Antoni, a research fellow in the Center for Data Analysis at The Heritage Foundation.

“One of the worst things that the Biden administration has done is that they have given immigration a bad name in the minds of the American people,” Mr. Antoni told The Epoch Times.

“In the age before you had this massive welfare state, we used to think of immigrants as hard-working people where the only way you made it in America was through hard work,” he continued.

“Now, by opening the border and implicitly inviting anyone in and telling them they will receive all of these goodies, you’ve created an incentive for people to come here who have no intention of working hard and earning a living,” added Mr. Antoni.

States across the nation have seen a recent surge in illegal immigrants—and crime.

According to government statistics, the U.S. Border Patrol had nearly 250,000 encounters with illegal immigrants crossing into the United States from Mexico in December 2023—the highest monthly total on record and topped the previous high of 224,000 encounters in May 2022.

While a public breakdown of crimes revealing what percentage of offenses have been committed by illegal immigrants isn’t available, the perception exists among many—including political leaders—that a strong correlation exists between the number of people breaking the law to enter the country and the rise in crime that has followed.

The agency also reported dozens of arrests made of people on the FBI terror watchlist.
Illegal immigration is the second-biggest concern among likely voters ahead of the 2024 election at 44 percent, right behind inflation at 45 percent, according to a poll released last month by Center Square. 
“Over the past three years, an estimated 1.7 million migrants evaded U.S. border control and have entered the U.S undetected,” House Republicans wrote in a letter to Comptroller General Gene L. Dodaro.
“The possible correlation between uncontrolled immigration and rising crime in major cities across the U.S is a major concern for Congress, local law enforcement, and everyday Americans,” the letter reads.

‘This Is How You Make a Country Great’

Mr. Bukele’s attempt to entice the world’s best and brightest to his country received overwhelmingly positive feedback from the comment section on X.

“This is how you make a country great,” posted conservative commentator Joey Mannarino. “Meanwhile, the United States of America makes it impossible for people like this to get in but rolls a red carpet out for everyone who has a criminal record.”

Conservative podcaster Trisen Tate replied, “Now THIS is immigration done right!”

Mr. Bukele deserves to be commended for the move, according to Mr. Antoni, who says it could improve the lives of the people of El Salvador while also further exasperating the contrasting policy goals in the minds of the American electorate.

“It is not only well-intentioned, but it will have a noticeable positive effect for the people of El Salvador,” said Mr. Antoni. “If you are attracting the best and the brightest to your country—the most hyper-productive members of society—your odds of success go up drastically. The immigration policy in El Salvador used to be what our immigration was known for here in America,” he continued.

“It is setting up a real clear difference in today’s leadership between those who favor an influx of unskilled labor who often carry a financial burden versus leaders who want to bring the kinds of people into our country who through their skillset make life better for all Americans.”

Matthew Lysiak is a nationally recognized journalist and author of “Newtown” (Simon and Schuster), “Breakthrough” (Harper Collins), and “The Drudge Revolution.” The story of his family is the subject of the series “Home Before Dark” which premiered April 3 on Apple TV Plus.