GAO Report Underscores Crime and Economic Uncertainty Fueling Migration from Central America

WASHINGTON – Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), ranking member of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, highlighted a recent report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) which found that last summer’s surge of unaccompanied minors from Central America was triggered primarily by crime, violence and economic distress.

GAO surveyed U.S. officials working in the region to determine the cause of the migration, and policy responses by U.S. missions in the sending countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Their work confirmed that violence, insecurity and poverty are the key factors that propel unaccompanied minors in these countries to leave their homes and embark on the dangerous journey to the U.S. Additional factors included educational concerns, family reunification and the role of smugglers.

“This report underscores that endemic violence and economic distress in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras – the Northern Triangle – are driving children and parents to make a desperate decision and flee to the United States,” said Sen. Carper. “Faced with hopelessness at home, thousands of children and families from these countries risk their lives on a nearly 1,500 mile journey to the United States. The facts laid out in this report underline the critical need to address the root causes of migration from Central American. In order to prevent this phenomenon from continuing, we need to help those countries and their leaders overcome those circumstances that are pushing so many of their young people and families to flee.”

The report underscores the need to address the root causes of migration from Central America and the importance of President Obama’s proposed $1 billion aid package to help these Northern Triangle countries improve security and opportunity for their citizens.

“Fortunately, this Administration has said that it is committed to addressing the root causes of hopelessness, violence, and lack of economic opportunity in the Northern Triangle that compel so many desperate families and children to make the dangerous journey to the United States,” Sen. Carper continued. “While this proposed funding is not a silver bullet, I hope it lays the foundation for a sustained focus on – and investment in – the region by the United States and our partners. These efforts should not rest solely on our nation’s shoulders. It is a shared responsibility among the United States, the governments of the Northern Triangle, other Central American nations, and other partners in the region. Change in these nations won’t happen overnight, and it won’t be easy, but we do have a moral and fiscal obligation to help our neighbors in the Northern Triangle, and if we work together, progress can be made.”

Over the past two years, including as recently as November 2014, Sen. Carper has travelled to the Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, as well as Mexico and Colombia, to study the root causes of Central American migration. Sen. Carper wrote about this issue and what he has learned on his trips to these nations in an op-ed that appeared in The Hill this year: US must help Central American neighbors.

Last year, in his role as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Sen. Carper held  the hearing: “Challenges at the Border: Examining and Addressing the Root Causes Behind the Rise in Apprehensions at the Southern Border” and convened a roundtable with key stakeholders across the U.S. government, multilateral investment banks, and non-governmental organizations on what the U.S. government and its partners are currently doing to improve the prospects for citizens of these countries, to identify programs that may be the most effective, and to highlight what actions can be taken.