WASHINGTON, DC—Representative Eliot L. Engel, the leading Democrat on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today made the following statement regarding the President’s request for resources to address the influx of migrants from Central America in the Rio Grande Valley:
“As a father, my heart goes out to all the children making the perilous journey from Central America to the United States. What we’re seeing on our southern border is the result of a complex range of factors: from a lack of economic opportunity and violence across Central America; to the need to enforce a 2008 law, signed by President Bush, providing greater protection for children facing deportation; to misperceptions about our current immigration policy. And while we need to follow the law, cracking down on children through harsher enforcement at the border is not the way forward.
“Instead, we need to move quickly to provide the resources the President has requested. This support will channel $300 million toward programs that get at the root causes of migration and help to reintegrate returning children to their home countries. I called for precisely these efforts in a letter I wrote to the President signed by 61 of my colleagues.
“Children are flowing to this country because of violence and a lack of opportunity at home. That’s why as we look for near-term fixes to the current migration pattern, we need to invest in long-term solutions focused on economic development and opportunity for younger populations.
“We also need to use this funding to support our Central American partners to stop illegal smuggling networks. So-called ‘coyotes’ from these countries should be seen for what they are: criminals endangering the lives of children.
“Finally, while the United States will be returning these children to their home countries, that cannot be the end of the discussion. We need to help countries prepare for this influx. Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador don’t currently have the capacity to meet this challenge. We should support programs that reintegrate returning children in their home countries, including helping build shelters for returning youth with no place to go. And while U.S. assistance will help, our partners in Central America can also do much more to help reintegrate their citizens back into society upon their return.
“In the weeks ahead, I urge lawmakers to work closely with the Administration toward a solution—not to use this tragic situation as a political football.”