July 30, 2019

Democrats Reiterate Concerns about Trump Admin’s Lack of Strategy for Central America

Nearly four months after abruptly announcing the suspension of foreign assistance to Central America, the Trump Administration has failed to present a plan to mitigate the conditions driving migration

WASHINGTON – Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and 23 Senators today sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reiterating their concern about the Trump Administration’s lack of a coherent strategy to address the root causes forcing people to flee El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras for the United States. As the Administration continues restricting access to the U.S. asylum system and tries to choke off migration from the Northern Triangle, the actions it has taken thus far are expected to exacerbate the very conditions driving individuals to migrate in the first place.

“We are deeply concerned that, by suspending at least $370 million in foreign assistance toward Central America without an effective strategy to replace the efforts supported by this funding, President Trump is undermining our national security and curtailing efforts to stop drug trafficking, fight criminal organizations, and keep American citizens safe,” wrote the Senators. “At a time when we are witnessing an increasing number of parents and children risking and losing their lives to seek safety, it is imperative that the Trump administration acts swiftly and responsibly.”

U.S. foreign assistance to Central American is not charity; it advances U.S. strategic interests and funds initiatives that protect American citizens by helping lessen violence and instability in Central America, and by strengthening judicial systems, defending human rights, and promoting accountability in the region.

Joining Menendez in sending the letter were Senators  Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.),  Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.).

A copy of the letter can be found here and below.

The Honorable Mike Pompeo

Secretary of State

U.S. Department of State

2201 C Street NW

Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Pompeo:

We write to express our continued concern about the lack of a coherent strategy from the Trump Administration to address the root causes forcing citizens from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to flee their homelands and migrate to the United States. At a time when we are witnessing an increasing number of parents and children risking and losing their lives to seek safety, it is imperative that the Trump Administration act swiftly and responsibly. Additionally, nearly four months after President Trump announced the suspension of United States foreign assistance to these three countries, we have yet to receive information on how the Administration intends to tackle the high levels of violence, instability, and hardship that force these individuals to embark on the dangerous journey to the United States.

As you know, the purpose of U.S. national security funding for El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala is to protect the United States and its citizens and advance American interests, including supporting efforts to mitigate the factors driving irregular migration. This assistance supports joint law enforcement programs between the U.S. State Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to combat drug trafficking, as well as State Department-supported efforts by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and police forces in these three countries to combat violent gangs.[1] In this context, we are deeply concerned that, by suspending at least $370 million in foreign assistance to Central America without an effective strategy to replace the efforts supported by this funding, President Trump is undermining our national security and curtailing efforts to stop drug trafficking, fight criminal organizations, and keep American citizens safe.

U.S. foreign assistance to Central America also plays an important role in supporting communities affected by violence, strengthening judicial systems, defending human rights, promoting accountability, improving governance, reducing corruption, and advancing economic reforms. These initiatives have enjoyed bipartisan consensus since their inception because they work to improve conditions in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, empowering citizens of those countries to find safety and economic opportunities at home, rather than being pressured to migrate to the United States. In fact, the Trump Administration had acknowledged the effectiveness of these programs and in nine different reports sent to Congress, the State Department certified that certain benchmarks were being met. To that end, we remain deeply troubled by the President’s actions, which will likely exacerbate conditions in Central America and increase irregular migration from these countries to the United States.

In May of this year, a group of 35 Democratic Senators reintroduced the Central America Reform and Enforcement Act[2], which supports smart, effective, and humane border security approaches, provides a fair and legal process for children and families seeking asylum, and continues funding to address the root causes of violence and poverty in Central America. It is undeniable that, instead of using threats and forceful tactics against our neighbors, any effective plan to address irregular migration must include a strategy to tackle the root causes that are forcing individuals to flee in the first place.

It is critical that the Trump administration adopt a responsible and humane approach toward addressing this crisis. We urge you to work with Congress to present a real plan that addresses this situation in a timely manner.

Sincerely,

CC:

The Honorable Kimberly Breier

Assistant Secretary of State

Western Hemisphere Affairs


[1] See, e.g., Federal Bureau of Investigation, Anti-Gang Initiatives, available at https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/violent-crime/gangs

[2] See, e.g., S. 1445—Central America Reform and Enforcement Act.

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