I have introduced legislation to address the root causes of the refugee crisis in Central America before it reaches our border: the Northern Triangle and Border Stabilization Act. This is a comprehensive, five-pronged strategy to combat the underlying violence and instability that compels thousands of refugees to flee Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
President Trump’s punitive and chaotic policies at the border have exacerbated this humanitarian situation, leading to death and unforgivable conditions for migrant women, children and families. It is the responsibility of Congress to intervene when the Executive Branch isn’t doing its job. That is why I introduced legislation to take a humanitarian and regional approach to address the root causes of forced migration in Central America before it reaches our border.
The introduction of this bill follows the recent deaths of migrant children who were being held by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP). This tragedy underscores the severity of the humanitarian situation at the southern border as well as the unacceptable conditions migrants endure while being held in CBP facilities. These facilities are understaffed and under-equipped to hold and process the thousands of people who cross the border each day. This has resulted in children and families being subjected to extended detentions, gross overcrowding, freezing temperatures, little access to medical care, and sleeping on floors, among other inhumane conditions.
To help alleviate these problems, the Northern Triangle and Border Stabilization Act would:
- Address the root causes of migration from Central America. This bill would create a five-year, inter-agency plan that offers humanitarian and development aid to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras—among the most dangerous countries in the world—and ties larger aid packages with those countries’ ability to reduce violence, corruption and poverty;
- Offer resources to nations so they’re able to accept more refugees. This bill would provide financial support and technical assistance to neighboring countries so that they can increase their capacity to receive and care for refugees and adjudicate asylum claims, thereby reducing the need for refugees to make the dangerous journey north;
- Manage refugee claims regionally. This bill would establish Designated Processing Centers throughout Central America to register and process refugees for resettlement to the US or elsewhere; as well as administer better programs to reunite children with US relatives, reduce visa backlogs, and match migrants with U.S. businesses seeking temporary workers.
- Improve conditions for migrants held at the border. This bill would provide additional staff to CBP facilities and authorize improvements to their infrastructure, as well as hire child welfare and medical professionals to care for and treat children and families held in US custody. The bill also creates new criminal penalties for smuggling and trafficking.
- Promote efficient processing of asylum seekers. This bill would increase the number of US immigration judges and add courtroom staff to expedite the processing of asylum cases and reduce the immigration court backlogs. It also strengthens due process by providing legal counsel to unaccompanied children.
The Northern Triangle and Border Stabilization Act complements provides CBP medical and pediatric experts capable of keeping migrants healthy and helping to prevent future deaths and also would improve the system by which migrant and refugee claims are processed to decrease the need for individuals to travel to our border.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren represents the 19th Congressional District, which includes Morgan Hill and parts of Gilroy.