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The ongoing war of words between the president and congressional Democrats over a border barrier, and the government shutdown, does nothing to fix the underlying problems that cause Central Americans to migrate through Mexico and attempt to enter the U.S.

Missing from the histrionics in the other Washington has been a discussion of the root causes of the migrant flow: the poor economies and the violence that gives citizens of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador little hope that their lives will improve.

The new Mexican government has begun an effort to reduce the economic disparity through investments in these countries, and also to provide employment in Mexico itself. It’s been called the Central American “Marshall Plan” since it bears similarity to the assistance provided to rebuild the decimated economies of Europe following World War II.

Our leaders should be discussing ways we can help this effort rather than arguing over a wall or a fence, a big waste of money that could be spent much more productively.

Richard P. Nelson, Seattle