U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced their support for legislation to establish a coordinated regional response to effectively address the endemic violence and humanitarian crisis driving women and children to flee from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
The Secure the Northern Triangle Act calls for increased refugee processing in the region, and orderly and humane processing of individuals who reach the U.S.-Mexico border seeking protection. It also cracks down on smugglers, cartels and traffickers exploiting children and families, and pushes local governments to adopt political and anti-corruption reforms in order to address the root causes of regional violence and instability.
“While our priority continues to be the safety of our borders, it is important that we use every tool available to help stop the violence in the Northern Triangle region, and prevent more lives from being senselessly lost at our southern border,” said Sen. Warner. “Our country has a proud history of responding to humanitarian crises, and this plan keeps that spirit while helping stabilize the region, improving our security through a fair and orderly refugee process both at home and abroad, and establishing a way for families to safely stay in their own countries or in neighboring countries. The lives of vulnerable women and children are at stake.”
“Unprecedented levels of violence, dire poverty and endemic corruption in Central America has spurred thousands to flee their home countries – mainly Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador – in search of a better life,” said Sen. Kaine. “The United States can no longer ignore the obligation to address the challenges posed by this increase in refugees at our southern border. I believe this comprehensive bill is important to the national security of American citizens, the security of children and families in the Northern Triangle, and will bolster our efforts to stabilize a volatile and dangerous region in our own hemisphere. This includes holding the Northern Triangle countries accountable for required economic and political reforms to stem the high levels of migration.”
Specifically, this bill would:
- Condition foreign aid to Central American governments on successful reform efforts to address the root causes of violence and instability that are driving migration;
- Crack down on smugglers and traffickers exploiting vulnerable children and families;
- Minimize border crossings by expanding refugee protections, processing, and housing in the region;
- Enhance monitoring of unaccompanied children after they are processed at the border; and
- Ensure fair and orderly processing of those who do reach our border seeking protection.
Central America’s Northern Triangle region – El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala – has seen staggering increases in organized crime, gang violence, and poverty. The Northern Triangle has some of the highest murder rates of women and children in the world – higher even than once-active war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, from 2010 to 2013, 95 percent of murders in the Northern Triangle were unsolved or unprosecuted. As conditions in these countries have deteriorated, many residents have been forced to flee.
While the number of unaccompanied children and families arriving at the border has been increasing dramatically since 2011, the number of children coming from the Northern Triangle spiked dramatically in the summer of 2014, leading to the so-called unaccompanied children “crisis.” The Secure the Northern Triangle Acttakes on this challenge by addressing head-on the underlying political, economic, and social unrest in these countries that has resulted in continued migration.
A copy of the legislative text can be found here. A one-page summary is also available here.