The United States is concerned by the growing numbers of vulnerable children traveling from Central America through Mexico to reach our country. The great majority are relying on dangerous human smuggling networks over an arduous journey, during which many fall victim to violent crime and sexual abuse. These networks also cynically mislead them into believing they will gain benefits under U.S. law once in the U.S., which is not the case.
Traveling to Central America recently, Vice President Joe Biden met with the presidents of Guatemala and El Salvador, the Honduran Coordinator General and the Mexican Secretary of the Interior to discuss how our countries can prevent children from making this dangerous trip, and instead make it possible for them to achieve their hopes and dreams in their home countries.
The United States will continue efforts under the Central American Regional Security Initiative and the Merida Initiative in Mexico to help countries improve citizen safety, rule of law and border security.
We will also move forward with an integrated Central American Strategy that addresses the opportunity, prosperity and governance gaps that are helping fuel the outbound migration. This will include projects focusing on youth who are at risk of migrating, and target at-risk communities in order to reduce the number of youth who become involved in gangs and drugs.
Beyond serious crime and gang violence, lack of economic opportunity plays an important role in migration from Central America. The U.S. State Department works closely with other agencies on longstanding efforts to enhance economic development by increasing trade and create a new public-private partnership with countries in the region through the Global Development Alliance. This mobilizes the expertise of businesses and local civil society to help reach at-risk youth.
During meetings with the Vice President, all countries involved agreed that the children would benefit from reunification with family in their countries of origin. We are providing $9.6 million to help build Central American governments’ capacity to reintegrate and care for repatriated citizens. Vice President Biden emphasized that any minor who arrived in the past seven years isn’t eligible for special immigration status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, and would eventually be deported.
Parents shouldn’t put their children in the hands of smugglers and drug traffickers. It is dangerous and reckless, Vice President Biden said.
The United States is committed to working with the leaders of Guatemala, El Salvador, Mexico and Honduras to stop this dangerous and illegal migration of children, and create safer, more hopeful communities for these people in their home countries.