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Press Release

Rep. Cuellar Helps Secure $595 Million for Central America to Address Root Cause of Migration to U.S.-Mexico Border

FY19 Appropriations Includes Language Expediting Assistance to Central America

Congressman Henry Cuellar (TX-28) helped secure $595 million to address the root cause of migration to the U.S.-Mexico border in the fiscal year 2019 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations bill. He also included language directing the Department of State to expedite foreign assistance to Central America—particularly the countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Specifically, the language directs the State Department to submit its foreign assistance spending plan for Central America and to take steps to ensure that Central America receives the funds the Appropriations Committee has allocated within 60 days of the bill’s enactment. In 2015, the Congressman and members of the State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Committee first secured $750 million for Central America to address turmoil in Central American countries. However, the State Department has not allocated this money quickly. As a result, the U.S. has continued to see a migration of individuals from Central American countries, as families are forced to flee their countries to seek refuge in America. Children often arrive unaccompanied or, under the Trump Administration, have been separated from their parents at the border. This bill passed full committee markup and is scheduled for a vote on the House and Senate floors this summer.

In the current fiscal year, there has been an influx of unaccompanied children and migrant families from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. This has created an increase in the migration of unaccompanied children to the U.S. border. During FY18 alone, 18,440 unaccompanied children have arrived at the border in the area stretching from Laredo to Brownsville. Over half of all unaccompanied children that have arrived to the border have arrived at the lower Rio Grande Valley. In the same year, 45,987 family units have arrived in this area— this represents over 60 percent of all family units that have arrived to the U.S. – Mexico border. In an effort to extend U.S. security outward, and address this issue at the root, the Congressman has made it a priority to help Central American countries combat instability.

As a member of the Appropriations Committee, Congressman Cuellar has worked to secure adequate foreign assistance for Central American countries to promote prosperity, improve security, and strengthen governance. Since 2015, the Congressman, in conjunction with his fellow appropriators, has allocated $1.9 billion to the State Department for foreign assistance to Central America but about $800 million of these funds have not been spent - and that does not include the $595 million he helped secure in the FY19 bill.

The Congressman’s language in the FY19 bill will ensure that the money directed to Central American countries to combat corruption, violence, and poverty is actually available for use in a timely manner.

“Until conditions improve in these countries, the region will continue to be a major transit corridor for illicit drugs and a significant source of migration to the U.S.,” said Congressman Cuellar. “We continue to see the devastating results in our country, as families are forced to flee their countries to seek refuge in America and children arrive unaccompanied.”

“I have worked hard to secure funding to address these issues in Central America, but not all of this critical funding is getting to its destination. This is simply unacceptable. We have done our jobs as appropriators by making sure these countries are given the assistance they need. Now the State Department needs to move faster in implementing the funding levels and strategy necessary to meet U.S. objectives, which is exactly what my language in the FY19 appropriations bill is intended to do.”

Congressman Cuellar added, “I want to thank State, Foreign Operations, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Rogers, Ranking Member Lowey for including this important provision in the bill. I would also like to thank my fellow Appropriators for their hard work on this bill.”

See video from full committee markup here.

See attached bill language here.