The Biden Administration Is Running Digital Ads to Discourage Potential Migrants

Keep Out sign

Update: The Daily 202 has details on ad volume and placement.

Interesting tidbit via today’s Politico’s Playbook PM:

Press secretary Jen Psaki said at the briefing today that the Biden administration’s efforts to discourage migration have included more than 17,000 radio ads in several Latin American countries and almost 600 targeted ad messages on Facebook and Instagram, reaching tens of millions of people.

I don’t remember hearing about an ad campaign quite like this:

  • Radio and digital ads sponsored by the U.S. government
  • Aimed at people in other countries
  • Asking them to stay home

States and cities routinely use ads to encourage people to visit them, but governments rarely if ever advertise to keep people away. With a wave of asylum-seekers hitting the border, and with unaccompanied children crammed into processing centers, the Biden administration clearly wants to keep more people from heading north. For one thing, ads offer some way of countering the message from human smugglers, who’ve taken advantage of Trump’s departure to encourage potential customers to take the long, dangerous and uncertain journey to the U.S.

I assume that the governments in the countries in question agreed to the campaign, but will it work? Perhaps the ads will dissuade a few potential migrants, but I doubt they can make much difference as long as the conditions that lead people to leave their homes in the first place remain. Faced with criminal gangs or no good way to feed themselves, desperate people will take a desperate course.

Biden’s long-term plan goes far beyond advertising and includes billions of dollars for economic development and crime reduction in Latin America, though it risks foundering on the problems that have limited similar programs in the past. Perhaps the best hope lies in a worldwide post-Covid economic boom, the proverbial rising tide to lift all boats. In the short run, ads like these won’t employ anyone outside of Facebook and Instagram, but they’re about all a northern neighbor can do.


Written by
Colin Delany
View all articles
Leave a reply