US House Foreign Affairs Committee introduces legislation to address root causes of migration from Central America

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Representatives Eliot Engel (L) and Michael McCaul

By Caribbean News Now contributor

WASHINGTON, USA – Representatives Eliot Engel, Democratic chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and Michael McCaul, its ranking Republican, recently introduced the United States–Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act, which supports the people of Central America and strengthens US national security by addressing the root causes of migration from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.

Representatives Albio Sires, the Democratic chairman and Francis Rooney, ranking Republican member of the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, Civilian Security and Trade, are original co-sponsors of the legislation along with Representatives Norma Torres, the Democratic co-chair and Ann Wagner, the Republican co-chair of the Congressional Central America Caucus and Democratic Representative Henry Cuellar.

Engel said, “It’s a dangerous, terrifying thing to move your entire family to an unknown place. And many people only make that decision when they feel like they have no other option. The best way for the United States to address the challenges facing El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras is by investing in a safer and more prosperous Central America and helping to create more opportunities for those who live there. This legislation demonstrates Congress’s continued commitment to the people of Central America.”

“Central America continues to face serious economic and security challenges that are threatening regional stability and driving waves of illegal migrants to the United States. In order to address this crisis effectively, we must look at the conditions on the ground. This bill outlines a clear and consistent strategy to provide US assistance in four key areas: economic development; anti-corruption; democracy and governance; and security. It also establishes metrics to ensure that our aid effectively addresses illegal migration and demonstrates that these countries are doing their part to stem the flow. As a Texan, I understand the frustration over the challenges we continue to face at our border and am committed to addressing the root causes of illegal migration and helping to facilitate a more prosperous Central America,” said Ranking Member McCaul.

Specifically, the United States–Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act authorizes $577 million in foreign assistance to Central America for Fiscal Year 2020 and includes conditions on any assistance that goes to the central governments of the Northern Triangle countries. It reaffirms congressional intent by not allowing authorized funds to be reprogrammed, transferred or rescinded.

The bill also lays out a series of actions to be taken by the Secretary of State, the Administrator of USAID and other US government officials to promote inclusive economic growth and development, combat corruption, strengthen democratic institutions and improve security conditions in the Northern Triangle.

It also requires State and USAID to develop and report to Congress on annual benchmarks to track the progress of the strategy in addressing the drivers of irregular migration.

The Secretary of State and USAID Administrator are required to prioritize inclusive economic growth and development, anticorruption but strengthening democratic institutions and security conditions in the Northern Triangle. Annual progress reports and multi-year strategies are required in each area. A senior rule of law advisor must be designated for the Northern Triangle in the State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs and is also required as is a feasibility analysis on the formation of an Investment Fund for the Northern Triangle nations and southern Mexico by the US International Development Finance Corporation.

Targeted visa bans and asset freezes must be implemented on individuals who are steadfast in engaging in acts of corruption impacting the Northern Triangle countries. This includes public officials, private citizens and individuals residing outside of the Northern Triangle who are engaged in corruption in these countries.

Improves engagement with the government of Mexico on the Northern Triangle. Development efforts in southern Mexico must be supported by the Secretary of State and various executive branch agencies and reinforce security collaboration regarding Mexico’s shared border with Belize and Guatemala.

Congress must receive advance reporting on security support to Northern Triangle countries, irrespective of the dollar amount for the following three years.

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