Senate Democrats today announced the reintroduction of a major legislative proposal to address the root causes of the Central American migrant crisis. The proposal, which was introduced by Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Tom Carper (D-DE), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI), outlines the coordinated regional response needed to effectively manage the endemic violence and humanitarian crises in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras that are forcing many women, children, and families to flee and seek refuge in the United States.
"Democrats support smart, effective, and humane border security. But President Trump's failed anti-immigrant policies have exacerbated the situation at our southwest border. It should be clear to the President and his administration that you cannot prevent outflows of irregular migration without addressing the root causes of that migration," said Durbin. "Our legislation would do just that -- by 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."
"While the Trump administration's actions exacerbate issues at the southern border, Senate Democrats are committed to addressing the root causes that force families to flee Central America in the first place," said Schumer. "The Central America Reform and Enforcement Act is a common sense proposal based on solutions that have shown success in the past and seeks to stem the flow of asylum claims at our border, crack down on the drug cartels causing the violence that forces people to flee, and provide a safer path to asylum for families in Central America."
Specifically, the Senate Democrats' Central America Reform and Enforcement Act would:
Condition assistance 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 and increasing violence, including murder and rape, perpetrated by armed criminal gangs and drug traffickers that act with impunity. The Democrats' bill provides conditional assistance to these 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.
Crack down on smugglers, cartels, and traffickers exploiting children and families. 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.
Minimize border crossings by expanding refugee processing in the region. 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 other Central American countries to strengthen their own asylum systems, expands refugee processing for third-country resettlement and creates a new refugee processing program to provide women and children an alternative to making the dangerous journey north.
Enhance monitoring of unaccompanied children after they are processed at the border. The U.S. government lacks the resources to track unaccompanied children after they are processed by Border Patrol and are placed with a sponsor, usually a close family member. The Senate Democrats' bill strengthens the Department of Health and Human Services' ability to oversee the safety and wellbeing of children released to an adult sponsor while they await their court hearing by requiring consistent, uniform and timely background checks, post-placement wellness checks and post-release services. The bill also provides resources and guidance to local school districts enrolling unaccompanied children.
Ensure fair, orderly and efficient processing of those who do reach our border seeking protection. The United States has a long tradition of standing up for refugees around the world and we have the capacity and responsibility to do so now with those fleeing increasing violence in our own hemisphere. The Senate Democrats' bill provides a fair legal process for children and families seeking asylum, improves immigration court efficiencies by requiring a significant increase in the number of immigration judges to ensure the prompt resolution of immigration claims, and establishes reintegration programs in the region that reduce the likelihood of remigration for those who do not have legal grounds to stay in the United States.
The legislation is also cosponsored by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Tina Smith (D-MN), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Jack Reed (D-RI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-NV), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Tom Udall (D-NM), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Mark Warner (D-VA), Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY), Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Ed Markey (D-MA), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR).