WASHINGTON, DC—Representative Eliot L. Engel, the leading Democrat on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, was joined by four House members in calling for a Government Accountability Office review of U.S. efforts to promote development, rule of law, and violence prevention in the Central American countries where recent migration flows originated. In a letter to United States Comptroller General Gene L. Dorado, Rep. Engel and his colleagues requested an analysis showing whether current assistance efforts are reaching the communities in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras that have produced the greatest number of unaccompanied children coming to the United States.
“While we need to address the humanitarian crisis on our southern border, we also need to realize that this situation is the symptom of a much larger problem. These children are leaving home because they don’t have opportunity or they fear for their lives. We need to make sure that our assistance to Central America is being used where it’s needed most, and that we’re getting at the root causes behind this challenge,” said Rep. Engel.
Representative Engel authored the letter with Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), Chair of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations; Rep. Albio Sires (D-NJ), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere; Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI); and Rep. Joaquín Castro (D-TX).
Text of the letter follows.
The Honorable Gene L. Dodaro
U.S. Government Accountability Office
441 G Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20548
Dear Comptroller General Dodaro:
The dramatic increase in the number of unaccompanied children migrating to the United States from Central America has created a humanitarian crisis at our southern border. In FY 2009, there were 19,668 apprehensions of unaccompanied minors in the United States. 82 percent of these children were from Mexico while 17 percent came from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Recently, the overall number has vastly increased as has the proportion coming from Central America. In just the first eight months of FY 2014, there were 47,017 apprehensions of unaccompanied children with 73 percent from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
In recent years, the United States has provided assistance to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras through the Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI) which in part addresses root causes of this migration pattern. On July 8, 2014, President Obama requested $295 million in supplemental funding for this State Department program. A portion of this funding will go to violence prevention, rule of law and economic development programs.
As the United States continues to provide foreign assistance to our Central American partners to address root causes of the recent migration pattern, we want to ensure that funding is reaching the communities from which children are migrating or are likely to migrate in the future. As such, we request you undertake a review of CARSI and other assistance to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras that is related to economic development, rule of law and violence prevention. In this review, we ask that you provide us with an analysis of the extent to which current assistance is reaching the communities in these three countries from which the greatest number of unaccompanied children come to the United States. Given the importance of receiving this information quickly, we request that you answer the following questions in a correspondence product issued by October 15, 2014 and a final report issued by January 15, 2015:
1. Please identify the cities and municipalities in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras from which the highest numbers of unaccompanied children are migrating to the United States.
2. To what extent are the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) targeting economic development, rule of law and violence prevention programs towards these communities?
3. Does current foreign assistance to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras address root causes of migration? With the current humanitarian crisis, have USAID and the State Department adjusted their approach to foreign assistance in these countries to further address root causes of the current migration pattern?
4. What metrics are USAID and the State Department using to assess and ensure the success of economic development, rule of law and violence prevention programs in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras? Are these metrics adequate in addressing root causes of the current migration pattern?
5. How effective are U.S. efforts to inform citizens of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras that children migrating to the United States are likely to be sent back to their home countries? Should more be done to amplify this message so that young children are not sent on the long and dangerous journey to the U.S.? If so, what?
During the review, please keep the House Foreign Affairs Committee staff apprised of your plans and the progress of your work.