Sen. Tom Carper Leads Delegation to Southern Border, Asks Congress to Focus on Addressing Root Causes to Stem the Flow of Irregular Migration from Central America
In El Paso, the delegation toured CBP and HHS facilities including the new Emergency Intake Site for unaccompanied minors at Fort Bliss
Washington, D.C. – This week, Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), senior Democrat of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, led a congressional delegation to El Paso, Texas, to see firsthand the steps and whole-of-government efforts the Biden Administration is taking to rebuild a humane and fair asylum system at our border in just a few short months after taking office and inheriting a neglected and dismantled immigration system from the previous administration. As the Biden Administration deals with an increased flow of unaccompanied children coming to the U.S., most of whom are coming from the Central American countries of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, the delegation visited Health and Human Services (HHS) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facilities that house unaccompanied children.
Joining Senator Tom Carper on the trip to El Paso was Rep. Norma Torres (CA-35), Rep. Lou Correa (CA-46), and Rep. Jason Crow (CO-06). Congresswoman Veronica Escobar (TX-16) who represents El Paso in Congress, joined the delegation at two locations: CHS Trail House Shelter and the El Paso Sector Centralized Processing Center.
With more than 80% of unaccompanied minors hailing from the Northern Triangle, it is clear that our nation needs to address the root causes of migration – crime, extreme weather conditions, poverty, corruption, lack of opportunity – that compel so many Central Americans to leave their homeland and make the treacherous journey north in search of safety and security. During their trip, the delegation called on Congress to redouble its effort to address root causes of irregular migration by investing in the Northern Triangle and by working together to hold regional leaders accountable to ensure they do their part as well to bring prosperity to the region.
“Unlike the previous Administration, the Biden Administration is leading with compassion and efficiency, with the goal of making our immigration and asylum system work – not breed more chaos. I commend the Administration and the hardworking men and women at DHS and HHS for their efforts to properly care for unaccompanied migrant children, most of whom are coming from the Northern Triangle. However, it’s clear that we are facing a serious humanitarian challenge and if we continue to simply just address the symptoms of irregular migration and not the root causes in the Northern Triangle like extreme poverty, crime, lack of opportunity and hope — this is a challenge we will continue to face ten, twenty, thirty years from now,” said Senator Tom Carper. “Under President Obama, then Vice President Joe Biden led efforts to launch the Alliance for Prosperity, which offered aid to the Northern Triangle governments to boost public institutions, fight crime, spur new business investment, and fight systemic corruption that has plagued the region for years. In its first year, Congress appropriated over $750 million toward this cause. In my last visit to Central America in early 2019, I saw some promising outcomes of the program. Unfortunately, in March of 2019, President Trump suspended most foreign aid to the Northern Triangle. This decision dwarfed our presence in the region, weakening bonds of cooperation and slashing the economic and diplomatic aid that proved effective in reducing migration. However, I’ve always believed that the key element to enacting change is good leadership and I’m hopeful that with President Biden and Vice President Harris at the helm, we can put forward solutions to tackle the root causes of irregular migration and bring renewed prosperity to the region. We need to make sure the United States has a strong presence in Central America, and to do so we need to have experienced, Senate-confirmed Ambassadors in Honduras and El Salvador. I look forward to working with the Biden-Harris Administration and my colleague in Congress to ensure we work together to bring hope and prosperity to our neighbors in Central America.”
“What my colleagues and I saw at the border in Texas this week is the direct result of four years of neglect by the previous administration,” said Rep. Norma J. Torres. “We should not keep treating symptoms at the border while ignoring root causes in Central America – we must address the corruption, violence, and poverty in the Northern Triangle that drive people to make the dangerous trek to our border in the first place. The Biden Administration is taking clear steps to do exactly that, while showing compassion for the vulnerable migrants who are already here. I thank Senator Carper and the rest of my colleagues who joined us on this delegation for their commitment and leadership on this issue – I look forward to working with them, and this Administration, to turn the page on the harmful policies of the past four years and finally begin to address the reasons people come here.”
“As the representative of one of the most diverse districts in the country, I know that immigrants and refugees make our communities stronger and more vibrant,” said Congressman Jason Crow. “The status quo has failed us. Reforming our immigration system must involve addressing the root causes of migration and creating a system that complies with our morals and values as a nation. The harmful policies of the last four years will take time to undo, but I look forward to working with the Biden-Harris Administration to create a competent and compassionate system.”
On Monday, April 5, the delegation toured two Health and Human Services facilities, including the Fort Bliss Emergency Intake Site and the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s CHS Trail House Shelter. The Fort Bliss Emergency Intake Site (EIS) was activated by the Biden Administration just a week ago to provide additional capacity to manage both the enhanced COVID -19 guidelines and the growing number of unaccompanied children arriving at our Southern Border. At Fort Bliss EIS, the Members were briefed by HHS officials on the efforts the Administration is taking to properly care for the children at this temporary influx facility. At this site, children are tested for COVID-19 and are provided sleeping quarters, meals, toiletries, and access to medical and social services. After Fort Bliss, the delegation toured CHS Trail House Shelter, a Texas state licensed HHS shelter that houses unaccompanied children, ages 0-17.
On Tuesday, April 6, the delegation toured the El Paso Sector Centralized Processing Center, where they were briefed on the steps Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is taking to temporarily care for unaccompanied children and efficiently transfer these children to HHS custody as quickly as possible, consistent with legal requirements and the best interest of the children. Additionally, the delegation was taken on a tour of the U.S.-Mexico border by U.S. Border Patrol (USBP), where they were briefed on the tools and technology USBP utilizes on the ground along the border. Lastly, the delegation toured the Paso del Norte port of entry. At this location, Members witnessed the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) wind-down process of asylum-seekers who were forced to remain in Mexico under terrible conditions as a result of the previous Administration’s failed immigration policy. As the Biden Administration ended the “Remain in Mexico” program, February 2021 marked the start of processing for migrants with active cases that were subject to MPP, and the Members were briefed on how the administration is processing these individuals, as migrants are required to go through a staging and COVID-19 testing process facilitated by international NGOs before they arrive to the U.S. and are referred to CBP custody.
In February of 2019, Senator Carper led a congressional delegation to Central America to see firsthand the difficult and dangerous conditions in Central America that force so many migrants to flee and seek safe haven at the U.S. Southern border. Joining Senator Carper on the trip to the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador were Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Representatives Donald Norcross (D-NJ), Don Beyer (D-Va.), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.) and Lou Correa (D-Calif.). Over the past five years, Senator Carper has repeatedly traveled to Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, as well as Mexico and Colombia, to study the root causes of Central American migration.
In December 2015, Senator Carper, then Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, released the report, Stronger Neighbors – Stronger Borders: Addressing the Root Causes of the Migration Surge from Central America. The report found that the ongoing migration surge from the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador reflects troubled conditions in those countries.