Vice President Joe Biden is reiterating his call for Congress to agree to the administration’s requested $1 billion for Central America, as a response to the surge in illegal immigration from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras that reached a fever pitch last summer.
Biden was in Guatemala earlier this month — during Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to a joint meeting of Congress — to meet with Central American leaders to work on solutions to regional stability.
“The president and I are determined to address conditions in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras and help these countries on their path to economic prosperity,” Biden wrote Tuesday in an op-ed that appeared in The Hill. “To that end, we requested $1 billion in next year’s budget to help Central America’s leaders make the difficult reforms and investments required to put the region on a more stable and sustainable path.”
According to the vice president, the region has already taken proactive steps for economic benefit, since he spoke to leaders in June. He pointed to their joint plan with a development bank called the Alliance for Prosperity.
“Honduras signed an agreement with an international nongovernmental organization to increase governmental transparency,” he highlighted. “Guatemala has added new law enforcement officers and reassigned others to areas most in need, helping to reduce Guatemala’s murder rate by one-third. El Salvador passed a law providing new protections for investors.”
The $1 billion the U.S. would commit to the region, Biden says, would go to improve security in the three countries, aid in managing revenues and assist with regulations to help encourage investment.
“This level of support is nearly three times what we have provided to Central America in the recent past,” he wrote. “But the cost of investing now in a Central America where young people can thrive in their own communities pales in comparison to the costs of another generation of violence, poverty, desperation and emigration.”
The number of unaccompanied minors apprehended illegally attempting entry at the U.S.-Mexico border has been on the rise since 2012 (when 24,000 were apprehended). In 2014 nearly 69,000 were detained — 75 percent came from El Salvador, Guatemala or Honduras.
And while the administration seeks to mollify the push factors northward, a recent Government Accountability Office report noted that there are pull factors in the U.S.: namely perceptions that they will be allowed to stay and a desire to reunify with family members in the U.S.