Fact Sheet: The United States and Central America: Honoring Our Commitments

Fact Sheet
January 14, 2016

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

Fact Sheet: The United States and Central America: Honoring Our Commitments

On the occasion of the Vice President’s attendance at the inauguration of President Jimmy Morales in Guatemala City, the Obama administration reaffirms its commitment to a multiyear effort to assist the governments of Central America to build a safer and more prosperous future for their citizens, including through supporting governments to become more transparent, accountable, and capable of providing basic services and upholding the rule of law.

Building a Stronger Partnership

For Fiscal Year 2016, the Administration plans to provide up to $750 million to implement its Strategy in support of the Northern Triangle’s Alliance for Prosperity Plan, and other regional priorities. This figure more than doubles U.S. assistance to Central America of $305 million in Fiscal Year 2014 and represents a thirty-four percent increase over the $560 million allocated to the region in Fiscal Year 2015. Under the $750 million approved by the U.S. Congress, the Administration is able to provide the region up to $299 million in Development Assistance, $222 million in International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement funding towards the Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI), $184 million in Economic Support Funds for CARSI and regional prosperity, economic opportunity, and governance programs, $26 million in Foreign Military Financing, and $4 million in International Military Education and Training, in addition to funds for global health, demining, and other programs, including the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.

The new assistance from the United States to Central America will also place significant responsibility on the Northern Triangle governments to undertake needed reforms to receive U.S. funds in support of the Alliance for Prosperity Plan. To this end, the United States Congress required that 25 percent of assistance to the national governments of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras be withheld until the U.S. Secretary of State certifies and reports to Congress that each government is taking effective steps to:

  • Inform its citizens of the dangers of the journey to the southwest border of the United States.
  • Combat human smuggling and trafficking
  • Improve border security, and
  • Facilitate the safe return, repatriation, and reintegration of undocumented migrants

The Obama administration also notes that an additional 50 percent of U.S. assistance to the national governments of the Northern Triangle countries may only be obligated after the U.S. Secretary of State certifies that each government is taking effective steps to meet criteria such as:

  • Combat corruption and strengthen public institutions
  • Improve civilian jurisdiction and counter activities of criminal organizations
  • Protect human rights
  • Support programs to promote equitable growth
  • Implement effective civil society consultations, and
  • Increase government revenues.

The Obama Administration recognizes that the enabling environment for sustained growth, stability and prosperity for the region will require good governance, including support for democratic values, strengthening criminal justice systems and other legal institutions to combat impunity and promote the rule of law, and advancing rights and protections for civil society and journalists, as well as for vulnerable and marginalized groups. Only through measurable progress towards those objectives will the private sector, small business owners, and international investors have the necessary confidence in the security of their investment and assurances that business dealings are fair and legal. The United States is also partnering with Central American and Caribbean countries to identify concrete steps to advance energy sector reform, regional integration, and clean energy development.

Bolstering Cooperation to Protect Vulnerable Migrants Consistent with U.S. Law

The Obama Administration is deepening cooperation between the United States and Central America to ensure that fewer migrants embark on the dangerous journey to the United States. Those who do not qualify for refugee status will be returned consistent with U.S. law and values. The numbers of unaccompanied children and family units apprehended at the United States’ southwest border have continued to increase through the fall and winter, a time when the numbers have historically decreased. Unaccompanied children and family unit apprehensions in November and December were significantly above the previous highest apprehension totals for these months, which occurred in 2014.

As the President and Vice President have made clear, recently arrived undocumented migrants who have been through the immigration court process, have been determined by a U.S. immigration judge to not qualify for asylum or other relief, and have received final orders of removal, are immigration enforcement priorities and should be removed. As part of the civil immigration enforcement priorities announced by Secretary Johnson in November 2014, the Department of Homeland Security is focused on removing individuals who, whether alone or with family members, have been apprehended while attempting to unlawfully enter the United States and individuals who have received a final order of removal on or after January 1, 2014.

While securing our Southwest border and enforcing our immigration laws are top priorities for the U.S. government, the Administration understands that these actions alone will not address the underlying conditions that currently exist in Central America. Current push factors driving the recent migration spike include criminal violence, domestic and sexual violence, a debilitating drought, and a lack of economic opportunity. The U.S. Strategy for Engagement in Central America is intended to address many of underlying conditions driving migration. The Administration is working diligently to establish additional avenues for safe, legal, and orderly migration. Broadening access to protection for refugees from the Northern Triangle must be a shared responsibility of the United States, Central American governments, and the other countries of the hemisphere and around the world.

The United States plans to expand access to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for vulnerable individuals and families from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. This will:

  • Expanding access to resettlement for asylum seekers from the Northern Triangle.
  • Offer a legal alternative to the dangerous and unlawful journey many are currently taking in the hands of human smugglers.
  • Enable the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees and its nongovernmental partners in the region to identify persons in need of refugee protection
  • Better address the needs of those threatened by criminal gang violence and domestic violence, human rights defenders who have been targeted, and others.

A Comprehensive Approach

The Obama Administration is dedicated to pursuing a comprehensive approach in Central America. This includes partnering with the region to advance good governance, prosperity, and citizen security, enforcing our domestic immigration laws, and working to provide services and assistance to migrants or intending migrants who may be at imminent risk of harm. The Obama administration believes that a safe, stable, and prosperous Central America is vital in order to achieve a future where the Western Hemisphere is middle class, democratic, and secure.