WASHINGTON, USA – Representatives Eliot Engel, Democratic chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and Michael McCaul, its ranking Republican, on July 15, lauded the unanimous House passage of the United States-Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act (H.R. 2615), which addresses the root causes of migration from Central America by promoting greater security and economic opportunity in El Salvador, 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, earlier this year introduced the legislation.
Chairman Engel said, “Rather than cutting off assistance to Central America, we should be deepening our support for the people of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. The most effective way to do this is to invest in a safer and more prosperous Central America and create more opportunities for those who live there. Our legislation demonstrates Congress’s continued commitment to the people of Central America.”
Ranking member McCaul said, “The Northern Triangle countries of Central America continue to face serious challenges that are threatening the region’s stability and driving illegal migration to the United States. In order to address the economic and security hurdles aggravating the crisis at our southern border, we must use all tools at our disposal to address the root cause of the problem.
“Our legislation supports a five-year strategy and vital funding that prioritizes economic development, strengthens democratic institutions, and supports the work of faith-based organizations committed to lifting up at-risk youth. Additionally, our bill backs critical security measures to combat corruption and criminal gangs like MS-13, that are involved in the trafficking of persons and drugs. I am proud that Congress came together to support this bipartisan measure that will help alleviate the growing crisis at our southern border and look forward to getting this important legislation to the president’s desk.”
Given the urgent need to continue to address the root causes of child and family migration from El Salvador, Guatemala,a and Honduras, H.R. 2615 authorizes $577 million of 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 also lays out a series of actions to be taken by the Secretary of State, the USAID administrator, and other US government officials to promote inclusive economic growth and development, combat corruption, strengthen democratic institutions, and improve security conditions. Lastly, it puts in place targeted visa bans and asset freezes for corrupt individuals from the Northern Triangle countries.
Specifically, the United States-Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act does the following:
- Authorizes $577 million in foreign assistance to Central America to address the root causes of migration in Fiscal Year 2020. The legislation does not permit newly authorized funds to be used for purposes other than those explicitly authorized. It includes strong conditions on any assistance going to the central governments of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
- Requires the State Department and USAID to develop and report to Congress on annual benchmarks to track the progress of the strategy in addressing the drivers of child and family migration.
- Requires the Secretary of State and USAID administrator to prioritize inclusive economic growth and development, anti corruption, and strengthening democratic institutions and security conditions in the Northern Triangle. Multi-year strategies and annual progress reports are required in each area. The designation of a senior rule of law advisor for the Northern Triangle in the State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs is also mandated as is the prioritization of the private sectors role in the Northern Triangle countries and southern Mexico through the US International Development Finance Corporation.
- Puts in place targeted visa bans and asset freezes on individuals who are determined to be engaged in acts of corruption impacting the Northern Triangle countries. This includes private citizens, public officials and individuals residing outside of the Northern Triangle who are involved in corruption in these countries.
- Enhances engagement with the Mexican government on the Northern Triangle. The Secretary of State and various executive branch agencies are required to support development efforts in southern Mexico and strengthen security cooperation with regard to Mexico’s shared border with Guatemala and Belize.
- Requires advance notification to Congress on security assistance to Northern Triangle countries, regardless of the dollar amount, for the following three years.