Democratic Lawmakers Return from Five-Day Delegation Trip to Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador
Following the President’s unlawful national emergency declaration, members visited countries from which majority of migrants arriving at the U.S. Southern border are fleeing
Delegation met with key Central American leaders to discuss ongoing regional efforts to address the root causes of migration
WASHINGTON, DC – Just hours after President Trump declared a national emergency at the U.S. Southern border, Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Representatives Donald Norcross (D-NJ), Don Beyer (D-Va.), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.) and Lou Correa (D-Calif.) attended a congressional delegation to Central America to see firsthand a real emergency: the difficult and dangerous conditions in Central America that force so many migrants to flee and seek safe haven at the U.S. Southern border.
During the trip, members met with elected officials, business leaders, law enforcement and humanitarian organizations to discuss the ongoing migration surge from the Northern Triangle to the U.S. Southern border and solutions to the severe violence, poverty, and lack of economic opportunity that forces so many families to flee. Specifically, the delegation focused on current initiatives being implemented under the Alliance for Prosperity to bolster security and economic opportunity in the region and improve the prospects of citizens of these countries.
“There’s far too much misinformation out there about the state of immigration on our southern border and it’s up to all of us to separate the fear-mongering from fact,” said Congressman Donald Norcross. “By visiting the Northern Triangle countries, we were able to get a firsthand account of the root causes of migration. It’s as clear as night and day to me – on one hand there’s actual violence and genuine emergencies in Central America, and then there’s the purported and solely-political national emergency declared by our President.”
“The governments of the Northern Triangle have an opportunity to make their nations a better place to live, work, and raise a family,” said Senator Carper, who led the delegation. “And by seriously supporting their efforts to do so, we will not only strengthen America, we will help create a safe and economically resilient region. Last week, as part of the bipartisan deal to fund the government, Congress allocated $527 million to continue funding humanitarian assistance in Central America – known as the Alliance for Prosperity – to increase economic prosperity, rule of law and security and tackle the issues that force so many to flee for their lives and seek safe haven at our Southern border. That costs far less than a concrete wall and will help address the root causes of migration, rather than merely the symptoms. Our trip to Central America gave us a chance to sit down with the leaders of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras and hear about progress being made in upholding their commitment to the Alliance for Prosperity and the work being done on the ground to utilize these resources effectively. We also witnessed how these countries are aligning and harnessing resources from public and private sources including nonprofit organizations, the Inter-America Development Bank, the Millennium Foundation, and the faith community to further advance the goals of the Alliance for Prosperity. One of the brightest spots in my trip was having the opportunity to talk with the people of these vibrant countries and hear their stories firsthand. Their stories were a good reminder of why it’s so important for the United States to do its part to ensure this beautiful region has the tools it needs to restore hope for all people. I’d like to thank Senator Merkley and Representatives Norcross, Beyer, Blunt Rochester, and Correa for a productive trip. Together, we can and will build on the progress that’s been made.”
“Crime, poverty and corruption are driving families north from Central America by the thousands,” said Senator Jeff Merkley. “Until conditions improve, people will keep undertaking the harrowing journey to our border in search of any kind of hope. Assisting Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador to create jobs and rebuild their nations is the best strategy for them and for us.”
“It is abundantly clear that the primary mission of our US presence in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, is changing the conditions which drive irregular migration attempts to the United States,” said Congressman Don Beyer. “We are attacking the corruption which undermines citizen confidence that their countries will progress, and training police forces to deal with both gang violence and narcotics trafficking. We are investing in the conditions necessary for economic growth, especially the training of young people for good-paying jobs. Our greatest concern was the decline in US presidential support for these initiatives, the naive idea that a wall on a border more than a thousand miles north will be any disincentive for jobless people living in fear of violence. The most effective way for us to deal with unwanted immigration is to address the root causes in the developing economies of the Northern Triangle.”
“For many families in the Northern Triangle, daily life is difficult. They face limited economic opportunity, corruption, and violence, particularly for women. These conditions and a lack of good-paying jobs have led to a decades-long environment that forces people to flee dangerous situations in the hope of a better life. While we welcome those seeking refuge, our common goal is to address human rights concerns and spur economic growth in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, so fewer families engage in irregular migration,” said Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester. “That's why I was encouraged to meet with political, business, and civic leaders throughout the Northern Triangle who are working hard to build safe and secure communities, improve economic opportunity, and reform institutions so that they are transparent and meet the needs of their people. I am optimistic that with continued partnership, oversight, funding, and dialogue, we can mitigate these challenges and create a better future for all within the region.”
“This trip was an opportunity to see with my own eyes what I have long known—that our national security ultimately depends on our neighbors' stability and security,” said Congressman Lou Correa. “The United States must invest in cooperative regional security to ensure our neighbors are strong, stable, and secure, thereby ensuring our own national security. By assuring our region is secure, we can build strong, lasting peace and prosperity.”
In Guatemala, members of the U.S. delegation met with key leaders including U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala Luis E. Arreaga and key justice sector leaders – including Attorney General Consuelo, Special Prosecutor Against Impunity Francisco Sandoval. Members also met with Guatemala’s President Jimmy Morales to urge him to pursue policies that protect human rights, strengthen accountability, and uphold democratic institutions. They pressed President Morales to recommit to fostering economic growth; investing in education and workforce development; upholding the rule of law; and rebuilding citizens’ trust in the government by increasing transparency. While in Guatemala, the U.S. delegation toured Cuatro Norte with implementers of USAID’s Create Economic Opportunities (CEO) project and entrepreneurs who are investing in economic revitalization and job creation in Guatemala’s capital. Members also visited with PRONACOM Commissioner Victor Asturias to discuss the country’s efforts to enhance job creation and preservation and bolster the rule of law.
In Honduras, members of the delegation met with key leaders including Ana Garcia de Hernandez, First Lady of Honduras and Head of Migration Task Force and key justice sector leaders – including Attorney General Oscar Chinchilla and Director of the Public Ministry Special Prosecutorial Unit Against Impunity from Corruption (UFECIC). Members also met with President Juan Orlando Hernandez to discuss the importance of strengthening the rule of law and creating economic opportunity in Honduras.
In El Salvador, delegation members met with U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador Jean Elizabeth Manes and key justice sector leaders – including representatives from Grupo Conjunto Intelligencia Fronteriza (GCIF), a multinational border intelligence group that includes Salvadoran, Guatemalan, Honduran, Mexican and USG personnel that allows U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) and other U.S. law enforcement officials to check criminal histories of suspected gang members entering into the United States. Members also met with municipal leadership and private sector leaders to discuss security and prosperity plans for San Salvador. While in El Salvador, delegation members visited the Bridges to Employment Software Development Center, a USAID-funded project to provide at-risk youth with marketable job skills and place them in marketable jobs. They also toured Parque Cuscatlán, a park in San Salvador that is being completely redesigned and rebuilt through a public-private partnership with the support of Alliance for Prosperity funds. When construction is complete, the park will be one of the first safe, outdoor public spaces for San Salvador residents, creating a community space that is urgently needed. Members of the delegation also met with outgoing President Salvador Sánchez Cerén to discuss ways the United States and El Salvador can continue to work together to foster economic growth and jobs for the region. Members also met with President-elect Nayib Bukele and discussed his vision for the country, and opportunities for the U.S. and El Salvador to strengthen their relationship and foster economic and other ties between the two countries.
In December 2015, Senator Carper, then Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, released the report, Stronger Neighbors - Stronger Borders: Addressing the Root Causes of the Migration Surge from Central America. The report found that the ongoing migration surge from the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador reflects troubled conditions in those countries. The United States has contributed to these conditions with its insatiable appetite for illegal drugs and should help combat them. Over the past five years, Senator Carper has repeatedly traveled to Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, as well as Mexico and Colombia, to study the root causes of Central American migration and discuss with .
Contact: Ally Kehoe, Communications Director