Ahead Of VP Pence’s Central America Visit, Senate Democrats Unveil the Central American Reform And Enforcement Act – A Major Legislative Proposal To Address Root Causes Of Central American Migrant Crisis

June 27, 2018

Senate Dem Legislation – The Central American Reform and Enforcement Act – Outlines A Coordinated Regional Response To Effectively Manage The Endemic Violence And Humanitarian Crisis In El Salvador, Guatemala And Honduras That Is Forcing Local Women, Children, And Families To Flee To Seek Refuge In The U.S.

New Dem Legislation Will Minimize Border Crossings By Expanding Refugee Processing In Central American Countries And Disrupt Dangerous Drug Cartels Throughout Central America,

Legislation Will Also Reverse President Trump’s Funding Cuts To Northern Triangle Gov’ts To Address The Root Causes Of The Violence And Instability That Are Driving Migration And Crack Down On Smugglers, Cartels, And Traffickers Exploiting Children And Families By Increasing Penalties And Sanctions.

Washington – Senate Democrats today announced a new major legislative proposal to address the root causes of the Central American migrant crisis. The proposal, which was unveiled at a press conference by Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, Assistant Democratic Leader Dick Durbin, Senator Tom Carper, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Ranking Member Bob Menendez, Senator Richard Blumenthal, and Senator Heidi Heitkamp, outlines the coordinated regional response needed to effectively manage the endemic violence and humanitarian crisis in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras that is forcing local women, children, and families to flee to seek refuge in the U.S.

Specifically, the Senate Democrats’ Central American Reform and Enforcement Act will: 

  • Minimize U.S. border crossings by expanding refugee processing in Central American countries. Ongoing, rampant violence in the region suggests that women and children will continue to flee to other countries in search of protection.  The Senate Democrats’ bill helps Mexico and Central American countries to strengthen their own asylum systems, expands refugee processing for third-country resettlement restores and expands the Central American Minors program to provide women and children an alternative to making the dangerous journey north. The bill would:
  • Provide alternative safe havens in Mexico and throughout Central America in order to strengthen the ability of those countries to provide asylum to eligible individuals, particularly women and children.
  • Expand refugee processing in Mexico and Central America. The legislation would require the Secretaries of State and Homeland security to work with Mexico and Central American governments to establish in country refugee reception centers, and to set up refugee registration systems and security screenings to help determine asylum eligibility.
  • Restore and expand the Central American Minors Program. The legislation would require U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to set up additional sites and hire additional personnel within Central America in order to process asylum claims in Central America.

By increasing asylum resources at U.S. embassies in Central American countries and establishing in-country processing, the bill would encourage Central American families seeking asylum to present themselves at the embassy in their own country or in a safe neighboring country, reducing the pressure on U.S. resources along the border and resulting in a safer process for those families.

  • Disrupt and eliminate dangerous drug cartels throughout Central America. The legislation would double U.S. investment over the next five years (up to $7.5 billion) to build the capacity of Central American governments to combat illicit trafficking and criminal gangs, reduce corruption and impunity, and strengthen democratic governance and the rule of law. This funding will go to the State Department, U.S. Agency for International Development, Federal law enforcement agencies, Department of Justice Criminal Division, and the Department of Defense to develop and expand programs to bring cartels and gangs to justice; reduce violence and corruption; and address economic and other factors driving immigration to the U.S.    
  • Crack down on smugglers, cartels, and traffickers exploiting children and families by increasing penalties and sanctions. Smuggling and trafficking rings exploit the desperation of those seeking protection. The Senate Democrats’ bill creates new criminal penalties for human smuggling, schemes to defraud immigrants, and bulk cash smuggling. It also expands the work by the Department of Homeland Security and law enforcement agencies to disrupt and prosecute smuggling and trafficking rings. The bill would:
  • Strengthen cooperation between U.S, Mexican, and Central American law enforcement by establishing new partnership programs to target smuggling and traffickers.
  • Require the Attorney General and DHS Secretary to expand their efforts to investigate and prosecute human smuggling and trafficking children and families from Central America, as well as implement a public information campaign to warn migrants from Central America about the perils of the journey through Mexico.
  • Create new criminal penalties for smugglers attempting to smuggle large groups for financial gain, including fines and up to 15 years in jail.
  • Reverse President Trump’s funding cuts to Northern Triangle governments to address the root causes of the violence and instability that are driving migration. El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras are among the most dangerous countries in the world, especially for women and children. Their populations face unrelenting violence perpetrated by armed criminal gangs and drug traffickers that act with impunity. The Democrats’ bill provides assistance to Central American governments to restore the rule of law; create a more secure environment for children and families; strengthen democratic public institutions and reduce corruption; and promote economic opportunities.  Assistance funding is conditioned on the State Department certifying that the governments are implementing reforms and making progress on critical priorities.

“We need to address the root causes that are resulting in families fleeing from Central America to our southern border,” said Leader Schumer. “The Central American Reform and Enforcement Act is common sense and based on solutions that have shown success in the past. We should be able to alleviate the crisis on our southern border while ensuring that those claiming asylum can do so safely and in their own country.”

“You cannot address outflows of irregular migration without addressing the root causes of that migration.  A so called “zero tolerance” approach on the border is not enough,” said Durbin. “Our legislation would invest in addressing the root causes of violence in these countries, while also requiring accountability from the governments of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to ensure they are taking appropriate steps domestically to combat corruption and address irregular migration.”

“We have seen this problem at our borders before. What’s new is the cruelty and ineffectiveness of the policies President Trump has adopted in response to them,” said Senator Carper. “If President Trump wants to get serious about solving this problem, then we need long-term and comprehensive solutions. The good news is that we already know what works: we need to seriously address the root causes of migration from Central American countries, not merely the symptoms at our border. Only once we address the underlying conditions in these countries – the violence, the corruption and the lack of economic opportunity – will we see a reduction in the tens of thousands of migrants who arrive at our border each month in search of safe haven and a better life for their families. My colleagues and I are introducing a bill that will do just that, and I hope the Trump Administration will consider joining us.”

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