WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.)Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today led a group of 18 of his Senate colleagues in voicing their support for Vice President Kamala Harris’ leadership of the Biden administration’s diplomatic efforts to address and mitigate the underlying factors driving Central American migration to the United States. Sent in advance of Vice President Harris’ upcoming visit to Mexico and Guatemala, the senators’ letter reiterates their call for the development and implementation of a comprehensive strategy that responds to current humanitarian challenges in Central America and undertakes the long-term work needed to promote greater stability in communities across the region.


“As an essential element of the Biden administration’s Central America strategy, we encourage you to prioritize initiatives that strengthen democratic governance and combat corruption and human rights violations,” the senators wrote, urging the Biden administration to hold Central American government officials accountable for their involvement in criminal activities, human rights abuses, and efforts to undermine democracy. Ensuring stability in Central America directly supports the national interests of the United States.”

The letter also called for the continued provision of humanitarian assistance to communities in the region disproportionately affected by natural disasters and requested assurance that U.S. engagement in Central America includes support for the most vulnerable populations in the region, including women, children, indigenous populations, and LGBTQI+ people.

“We know that you are a stalwart defender of survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence and believe that a robust and coordinated interagency response to gender-based violence in the region is critical,” the senators added. “Additionally, it is essential to continue pressing government and civil society leaders in the region to strengthen compliance with labor, humanitarian, and international human rights laws.”

Joining Chairman Menendez in sending the letter were Senators Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.)Ben Cardin (D-Md.)John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.)Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.)Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.)Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii)Michael Bennet (D-Colo.)Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii)Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.)Tom Carper (D-Del.)Chris Murphy (D-Conn.)Chris Coons (D-Del.)Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.). 

Find a copy of the letter HERE and below. 

Dear Madam Vice President:

 

We write in advance of your travel to Mexico and Guatemala to express our support for your leadership of the Biden administration’s diplomatic efforts to address the root causes of irregular migration to the United States. After four years of ineffective policies, we welcome your leadership to implement a comprehensive strategy that mitigates the underlying factors driving migration from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, including alarming levels of violence, low levels of democratic governance, and widespread poverty, as well as the impact of recent natural disasters.

The United States must develop and implement an approach that responds to current humanitarian challenges in Central America and undertakes the long-term work needed to promote greater stability in communities across the region. We lament that the Trump administration’s misguided policies and erratic management of foreign assistance impeded U.S. efforts to address the challenges in the region. The setback of the last four years negatively affected Americans, given that the situation in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras directly affects U.S. national interests and our economic security.

As an essential element of the Biden administration’s Central America strategy, we encourage you to prioritize initiatives that strengthen democratic governance and combat corruption and human rights violations. For too long, leaders from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras have placed their interests above those of their citizens. In recent months, we have seen them renew efforts to undermine checks and balances on democratic governance and weaken the institutions that ensure government transparency. We appreciate you speaking clearly on these issues and ask that the Biden administration utilize all available U.S. foreign policy tools to ensure that Central American government officials are held accountable for their involvement in criminal activities, human rights abuses, and the undermining of democracy. The Biden administration should also develop robust safeguards on U.S. foreign assistance in order to prevent misuse of our aid.

We encourage you to ensure that U.S. engagement in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras includes support for the most vulnerable populations in the region, including women, children, indigenous populations, and LGBTQ people. We know that you are a stalwart defender of survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence and believe that a robust and coordinated interagency response to gender-based violence in the region is critical. Additionally, it is essential to continue pressing government and civil society leaders in the region to strengthen compliance with labor, humanitarian, and international human rights laws. We also welcome your progress in securing commitments from the private sector to promote the conditions for inclusive and equitable economic growth, which must be part of any long term solution to the challenges in the in the region.

Finally, in late 2020, Hurricanes Eta and Iota caused extensive damage across much of Central America, displacing hundreds of thousands of people, causing billions of dollars in damages, and increasing the push factors for migration.  After hurricane Mitch in 1998, the United States provided over $1 billion in humanitarian aid to help recovery efforts. While we appreciate your announcement to provide $310 million in aid to Central America, we encourage the Biden administration to continue deploying humanitarian assistance to communities disproportionately affected by the natural disaster.

Ensuring stability in Central America directly supports the national interests of the United States. As such, we support your efforts to advance a comprehensive strategy to address challenges in the region. Thank you for attention to these issues.  

Sincerely,

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