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2017-2021 ARCHIVED CONTENT

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Construction Continues On The Replacement Border Wall Near The Tecate Port Of Entry

Countering Illegal Immigration and Building Brighter Futures

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Control over borders and immigration is central to national security, economic prosperity, and rule of law. Per the U.S. National Security Strategy , the United States affirms its sovereign right to determine who may enter the country and under what circumstances. Illegal immigration burdens the economy, hurts American workers, presents public safety risks, and enriches smugglers and other criminals.

In FY 2020, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) encountered over 450,000 individuals attempting to enter the United States illegally at the border with Mexico. In FY 2019, the total was nearly one million. Most traveled north from El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico. This dramatic increase in illegal immigration, including unprecedented numbers of families, some pursuing fraudulent asylum claims, made it harder for the United States to devote appropriate resources to individuals legitimately fleeing persecution. Further, these individuals put themselves at risk for exploitation by smugglers, human traffickers, and other criminals, while also risking exposure to COVID-19.

In response, the United States is taking unprecedented steps to strengthen its borders. It is partnering across the region to deter illegal immigration and working to support the visions of partner governments for a better future — one where their citizens hold good jobs, live in safety, and build lives for themselves and their families, instead of embarking on a dangerous and futile journey. This effort requires close collaboration with governments and like-minded partners to strengthen democratic governance and the rule of law; fight corruption; promote investment, entrepreneurship, and economic prosperity; ensure civilian security; and cooperate on strengthening healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Strengthening Borders

In October 2020, the Trump Administration announced the completion of nearly 400 miles (640 kilometers) of new border wall. According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, about a mile (1.5 kilometers) of the wall is completed per day, and over 435 miles (700 kilometers) are expected to be completed by the end of 2020. The wall also includes cameras and sensors that allow CBP to monitor and prevent illegal crossings. [ShareAmerica]

Partnering with Governments to Create a Regional Approach

The United States believes that every country in the region shares the responsibility for addressing the migration challenges faced in Latin America today. The United States is working with governments in the region to address the causes of irregular migration; uphold each nation’s sovereignty by securing borders and combatting smuggling and human trafficking; expand access to protection for those fleeing persecution and torture; receive and reintegrate their returned citizens, and ultimately dissuade their citizens from irregular migration. These joint regional efforts, combined with the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, contributed to a 53 percent decrease in the number of irregular migrants encountered at the U.S. southwest border from FY 2019 to FY 2020.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the U.S. government has committed more than $1.6 billion worldwide in emergency health, humanitarian, economic, and development assistance aimed at helping governments, international organizations, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) fight the pandemic, including over $141 million for the countries of the Western Hemisphere and nearly $26 million for El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico.

Increased Migration Cooperation with El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras

In 2019 and 2020, the United States has secured enhanced cooperation with El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras in addressing irregular migration focusing on border security, facilitating information sharing, and promoting access to legal temporary employment in the United States. Additionally, the United States signed Asylum Cooperative Agreements (ACAs) with Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras to expand access to international protection within the region and deter illegal immigration to the United States.

Creating the Migrant Protection Protocol

In January 2019, the U.S. government began implementing a new initiative, the Migrant Protection Protocol (MPP), whereby CBP returns to Mexico certain migrants encountered along the U.S.-Southwest border to wait for the duration of their U.S.  immigration proceedings.  Mexico has committed to offer these returned migrants jobs, healthcare, and education.

Separately, Mexico has also deployed thousands of National Guard troops to its southern border to maintain Mexico’s sovereignty and the integrity of their border.

Increasing Prosperity

The United States is working with the governments of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico to support their visions to enhance civilian security, strengthen democratic institutions, fight corruption, and improve economic conditions.

To promote citizen security, U.S. programs help regional governments combat transnational criminal organizations, reduce gang and drug violence, and build the capacity of police and military institutions to address these issues on their own.

To promote good democratic governance, U.S. programs support anti-corruption efforts that improve the ease of doing business, strengthen the rule of law, promote strong institutions and government accountability, build respect for human rights, and improve fiscal management by promoting efficient tax collection, civil society engagement, and institutional reform.

Additionally, the United States is committed to building a more prosperous, stable, and secure Western Hemisphere. Through its Growth in the Americas Initiative, the United States will help create meaningful economic opportunities to improve the lives of individuals throughout the region.

The United States coordinates five bi-national cross-border infrastructure meetings annually with Mexico. These meetings facilitate trade, infrastructure development, and the secure movement of people and goods.

As part of the June 2019 U.S.-Mexico Joint Declaration, the United States and Mexico committed to working with regional and international partners to build a more prosperous and secure Central America to address the underlying causes of migration, so that citizens of the region can build better lives for themselves and their families at home. The U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) Board of Directors approved $1 billion in investments that will advance development in emerging markets across the globe. One project provides up to $20 million to support medium-sized businesses in Latin America, with a focus on Mexico. The fund aims to create quality employment opportunities in communities where most working-age adults are employed by the informal sector without stable wages and benefits.

Growth in the Americas Western Hemisphere Map

The U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) Board of Directors approved $1 billion in investments that will advance development in emerging markets across the globe.  One project provides up to $20 million to support medium-sized businesses in Latin America, with a focus on Mexico.  The fund aims to create quality employment opportunities in communities where most working-age adults are employed by the informal sector without stable wages and benefits.

DFC Chief Executive Officer Adam Boehler signed a letter of interest to finance a natural gas pipeline in southern Mexico. The $632 million investment will serve southern Mexico, and potentially neighboring countries in the future. The announcement follows the December 2018 U.S.-Mexico Declaration to strengthen bilateral cooperation to support private sector investment and foster development in southern Mexico.

The DFC continues to actively assess potential projects in which to invest in southern Mexico and Central America.

U.S. assistance promotes economic growth, energy security, poverty reduction, workforce development, education and training, and greater regional integration that will increase jobs for Central Americans and improve opportunities for U.S. and other businesses.

The U.S. government has recently sought to support economic prosperity in a number of ways within the region:

  • Increasing lending to small and medium enterprises – In June 2020, the U.S. Development Finance Corporation announced a loan of up to $200 million, which will enable Banco Industrial to expand lending to Guatemala’s small and medium enterprises, which are facing a roughly $14 billion credit gap that limits their ability to expand, increase revenues, and create jobs. At least 30 percent of loan proceeds will go to women borrowers.
  • Creating opportunity for members of indigenous communities in Guatemala – In September 2020, the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala announced it would support the Government of Guatemala’s “La Ruta” initiative with $22.5 million. Through INL and USAID, these funds will support access to justice, health services, and improved living conditions for indigenous communities in areas that experience high levels of migration.
  • Improving infrastructure and financial services – DFC invested in energy, clean water, and inclusive financial services in El Salvador, including a $350 million investment in the Energía del Pacífico natural gas power plant.

COVID-19 Assistance

Two men in masks do the COVID-19 fist bump

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the U.S. government has committed more than $1.6 billion worldwide in emergency health, humanitarian, economic, and development assistance aimed at helping governments, international organizations, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) fight the pandemic, including over $141 million for the countries of the Western Hemisphere and nearly $26 million for El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico.

Regional COVID-19 Assistance

The United States has contributed more than $1 million in Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA) to support the COVID-19 response for refugees, internally displaced persons, other vulnerable migrants, and host communities in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and USAID have collaborated closely with multiple ministries of public health on several issues, including infection prevention and control, testing strategies, as well as surveillance and contact tracing.

Throughout the region, CDC has worked with the Council of Ministers of Health for Central America to train 3,000-plus healthcare workers and laboratorians using the ECHO tele-mentoring platform that provides interactive contact with experts, and that will help with advanced vaccine or therapeutic preparedness, studies to better characterize patterns of infection, improve infection control materials, and use behavioral science to improve prevention messaging.

Efforts in El Salvador include:

  • Nearly $6.6 million in assistance to address basic needs, the economic impact, and the health impact of the pandemic.
  • The United States delivered 600 portable ventilators to El Salvador to help with critical cases.
  • As of May 12, 2020, in partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the United States distributed more than 7,500 food kits and more than 1,000 hygiene supplies in El Salvador.
  • CDC has briefed the President and Ministry of Health officials on key strategies to mitigate COVID-19 impact, consulted on plans for lab capacity and contact tracing, and is in the process of purchasing critical lab supplies.

Efforts in Guatemala include:

  • On September 25, the U.S. Embassy donated 50 ventilators to the Guatemalan government to assist with the response to COVID-19. This donation follows closely after DOD donated 12 tents, two generators, and 142 cots to Guatemala’s disaster response agency CONRED (National Coordinator for Disaster Reduction) on September 16 to assist with Guatemala’s pandemic response.
  • Nearly $10 million in assistance to address basic needs and mitigate the impact of the virus.
  • The United States has helped Guatemala strengthen the supply chain for health commodities and obtain needed COVID-19 testing capability.
  • USAID has worked with hard-hit smaller businesses to help keep staff employed; expedited the donation of hygiene kits and sanitation supplies to returned Guatemalan nationals; and provided transportation to reunite unaccompanied minors with their families.
  • The McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program continues to provide 132,000 school lunches to underprivileged Guatemalan children each school day.

Efforts in Honduras include:

  • More than $6.1 million in assistance to address basic needs and help manage the health effects of the pandemic, including $3 million in IDA humanitarian assistance for risk-communications and interventions in water, sanitation and hygiene; $2.4 million in previously announced health assistance that will help the Government of Honduras respond to the epidemic through focused support in the areas of laboratory strengthening, improved disease-surveillance, and the clinical management of COVID-19 cases. Some of these funds will also target infection-control in migrant-receiving communities. Seven hundred thousand dollars in MRA humanitarian assistance will support the COVID-19 response for refugees, vulnerable migrants, and host communities.
  • The United States has also adapted existing assistance programs to support Hondurans during this challenging pandemic.
  • The U.S. has also provided cleaning supplies to local governments, as well as thermometers and pulse oximeters to eight health centers and two primary care hospitals.

Efforts in Mexico include:

  • More than $2 million in funding to support refugees, asylum seekers, vulnerable migrants, and host communities as part of the pandemic response in Mexico.
  • The United States also authorized international organization partners to mobilize elements of nearly $103 million in existing humanitarian programs to limit the spread of infection among vulnerable migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees.   U.S. programs have delivered more than 19,175 liters of chlorine; 61,540 protective masks and 54,070 units of other  PPE; 136 thermometers, 8,000 liters of hand sanitizer; 6,546 bars of soap, and 3,090 hygiene kits.
  • U.S.-funded programs established two large migrant quarantine facilities, built 14 isolation units in shelters, and deployed 87 tents in migrant shelters and related facilities for the separation of symptomatic populations, and also installed 22 Refugee Housing Units in 8 shelters that serve as extended dormitory spaces, isolation or alternative care spaces.
  • U.S. funding to international organizations trained staff in shelters and migration facilities, developed health referral and isolation protocols to limit the spread of infection, and distributed materials in five languages on prevention and hygiene measures.

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