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[IWS] CRS: UNACCOMPANIED CHILDREN FROM CENTRAL AMERICA: FOREIGN POLICY CONSIDERATIONS [10 February 2015]

IWS Documented News Service

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Institute for Workplace Studies-----------------Professor Samuel B. Bacharach

School of Industrial & Labor Relations-------- Director, Institute for Workplace Studies

Cornell University

16 East 34th Street, 4th floor--------------------Stuart Basefsky

New York, NY 10016 -------------------------------Director, IWS News Bureau

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Congressional Research Service (CRS)

 

Unaccompanied Children from Central America: Foreign Policy Considerations

Peter J. Meyer, Coordinator, Analyst in Latin American Affairs

Clare Ribando Seelke, Specialist in Latin American Affairs

Maureen Taft-Morales, Specialist in Latin American Affairs

Rhoda Margesson, Specialist in International Humanitarian Policy

February 10, 2015

http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/homesec/R43702.pdf

[full-text, 28 pages]

 

Summary

In FY2014, there was a sharp increase in the number of unaccompanied alien children (UAC)

traveling to the United States. U.S. authorities apprehended more than 68,500 unaccompanied

minors at the U.S. border in FY2014, 75% of whom came from El Salvador, Guatemala, and

Honduras—the “northern triangle” of Central America. This unexpected surge of children

strained U.S. government resources and created a complex crisis with humanitarian implications

for the United States and the international community. Although the flow of unaccompanied

minors has slowed since peaking in June 2014, experts warn that it will likely accelerate again in

the future unless policy makers in the countries of origin and the international community take

steps to address the poor socioeconomic and security conditions driving Central Americans to

leave their homes.

 

The 2014 crisis led to renewed focus on Central America, a region with which the United States

historically has shared close political, economic, and cultural ties. The United States currently

engages with Central American countries through a variety of mechanisms, including the

Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) and

several foreign assistance programs. Over the past year, the Obama Administration has sought

closer cooperation with Central American governments to dissuade children from making the

journey to the United States, target smuggling networks, and repatriate unauthorized migrants.

 

Asserting that the FY2014 surge in unaccompanied minors was a reminder that “the security and

prosperity of Central America are inextricably linked to our own,” the Administration has

requested $1 billion in foreign assistance for the region in FY2016. These funds would be used to

implement a new “U.S. Strategy for Engagement in Central America,” a whole-of-government

approach designed to increase economic opportunity, reduce extreme violence, and strengthen the

effectiveness of state institutions in Central America. The request would allow existing programs

to be scaled up significantly and would place greater emphasis on economic prosperity and

governance while continuing to address security concerns in the region.

 

The 113th Congress expressed considerable concern about the spike in apprehensions of

unaccompanied children from Central America, with Members holding numerous hearings,

traveling to the region, and introducing legislation. Although Congress opted not to appropriate

supplemental funding for programs in Central America in FY2014, it included additional

resources for the region in its FY2015 appropriations measure (P.L. 113-235). Congress also

directed the Administration to develop a comprehensive strategy to address the key factors

contributing to the migration of unaccompanied children to the United States.

 

The 114th Congress will continue to shape U.S. policy toward Central America. It will consider

the Administration’s $1 billion FY2016 request for the region and will review the strategy

required by P.L. 113-235. Congress also may consider other measures, such as H.R. 439 (Weber)

and H.R. 530 (Burgess), which, respectively, would suspend and reduce foreign assistance to El

Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico if those countries proved unwilling or unable to

prevent unauthorized migration to the United States.

 

As Congress continues to debate legislative options to address the foreign policy dimensions of

the situation, there are a variety of interrelated issues that it might take into consideration. These

might include Central American governments’ limited capacities to receive and reintegrate

repatriated children, and their abilities and willingness to address the pervasive insecurity and

lack of socioeconomic opportunities in their countries that cause many children to leave. Other

issues Congress might consider include the extent to which the Mexican government is capable of

limiting the transmigration of Central Americans through its territory and how international

humanitarian actors are responding to the situation in Central America.

 

For more information, see:

• CRS Report R43628, Unaccompanied Alien Children: Potential Factors Contributing to Recent Immigration;

• CRS Report R41731, Central America Regional Security Initiative: Background and Policy Issues for Congress;

• CRS Report R43616, El Salvador: Background and U.S. Relations;

• CRS Report R42580, Guatemala: Political, Security, and Socio-Economic Conditions and U.S. Relations; and

• CRS Report RL34027, Honduras: Background and U.S. Relations.

 

Contents

Introduction ...................................................................................................................................... 1

U.S. Policy in Central America ........................................................................................................ 3

Background................................................................................................................................ 3

Current Policy Framework ........................................................................................................ 5

U.S. Response to Surge in Unaccompanied Minors .................................................................. 8

Obama Administration’s Initial Response ........................................................................... 8

FY2015 Appropriations Legislation .................................................................................. 10

FY2016 Administration Request ....................................................................................... 11

Policy Considerations .................................................................................................................... 13

Central American Capacity to Receive and Reintegrate Deportees ........................................ 13

Central American Capacity to Address Root Causes ............................................................... 16

Role of Mexico as a Transit Country ....................................................................................... 19

Selected International Humanitarian Efforts ........................................................................... 21

Outlook .......................................................................................................................................... 23

 

Figures

Figure 1. Apprehensions of Unaccompanied Minors by Country of Origin: FY2009-FY2014 ................... 1

Figure 2. Map of Central America ................................................................................................... 3

Figure 3. U.S. Assistance to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras: FY1946-FY2012 ................ 4

Figure 4. U.S. Aid to Central America: FY2014 and FY2016 Request ......................................... 12

 

Tables

Table 1. U.S. Assistance to Central America: FY2013-FY2015 ...................................................... 6

Table 2. U.S. Assistance for Central America in the FY2016 Request .......................................... 13

 

Contacts

Author Contact Information........................................................................................................... 24

 

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