Committee Border Hearings Examine Challenges and Root Causes of Central American Migration

WASHINGTON – Today, the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.) continued his Committee’s oversight of the current humanitarian challenges at the southern border. Today’s hearing, Challenges at the Border: Examining and Addressing the Root Causes Behind the Rise in Apprehensions at the Southern Border, focused on the underlying reasons that so many Central Americans – particularly unaccompanied children and families – are leaving their home countries to try and enter the United States.

The panel, which included experts from non-governmental organizations, examined the underlying factors that are pushing people from Central America—including unaccompanied children—to undertake the dangerous trip to the U.S., including the increasing violence and lack of economic opportunity and jobs in the region. It also explored what needs to be done  to foster stability and socioeconomic growth in the region so that Central Americans aren’t compelled to leave – including restoring the rule of law, lowering energy costs, improving education and workforce skills and stimulating access to capital. The panel also explored promising programs and efforts by the U.S. government, non-profits, faith-based organizations, and the private sector that could improve conditions in the region.

“As our witnesses described, the endemic violence and lack of jobs in Central American are driving children and parents to make a desperate decision and flee to the United States,” said Chairman Carper. “Faced with violence and a lack of hope and jobs at home, people are risking their lives on a nearly 1, 500 mile journey to the United States – facing harsh physical conditions, human trafficking, violence, and crime along the way. Today’s hearing emphasized the critical need to address the root causes of this humanitarian crisis and create a more secure and nurturing environment for job creation in these Central American communities. We heard some concrete ideas about things that are working in the region, including programs that focus on providing young people with education and jobs and increasing security at the community level. But we also heard that we cannot do this alone—this must be a partnership with shared responsibilities. And we must hold the governments in these countries accountable.

“While we continue to figure out what is working and what we should do more of in order to address these root causes, we must also continue to address the immediate implications of the surge at our border. The Administration and Secretary Jeh Johnson have been fully engaged in the situation along the border. Now, Congress needs to do its job and work in the near-term to stop this surge by approving the President’s request for emergency funding to address this challenge at the border. But we must not lose sight of the root causes. As necessary as this money is, today’s hearing showed that it is only one piece of a complex puzzle. Unless we take a hard look at those underlying problems outlined today, we will keep spending money to treat the heartbreaking symptoms at our borders.”

Last week’s hearing, “Challenges at the Border: Examining the Causes, Consequences, and Responses to the Rise in Apprehensions at the Southern Border,” examined the interagency response to the crisis along the border and the operational challenges posed by the recent surge and the Administration’s emergency supplement budget request to provide additional resources for the agencies responding to the recent surge of Central American migration along the U.S. southern border.