More than 70 Organizations Call for Biden to Overhaul Central America Policy

Press Release

For Immediate Release: January 15, 2021

Contact: Laura Carlsen, Americas Program, +52-1 (55) 3551-9993, [email protected]
Alexis Stoumbelis, Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador, 001-202-521-2510 ext. 205, [email protected]

More than 70 Organizations Call for Biden to Overhaul Central America Policy

Washington, DC – More than 70 groups are calling on the Biden administration to overhaul US policy toward Central America, including immigration policies that affect people from the region.

Citing the “widespread devastation caused by hurricanes Eta and Iota” as well as the COVID-19 pandemic, faith-based organizations, immigrants rights organizations, and groups focused on US-Latin America policy are telling Biden: “We support and will hold you to your commitment to reverse the Trump administration's draconian immigration policies and respect the human rights of migrants,” warning also that his plan for the region will continue policies “that have contributed to poverty, inequality and violence” in the region.

The groups, which include the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Presbyterian Church USA; American Friends Service Committee; ActionAid USA; Center for Economic and Policy Research; Global Health Partners; National TPS Alliance; the National Day Laborers Organizing Network; Win Without War; School Sisters of Notre Dame Cooperative Investment Fund; and the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Scranton, PA are calling on Biden to abandon the “barbaric” treatment of migrants from Central America, including family separation, and to stop a US-driven “assault on migrants’ human rights” by security forces in Central America and Mexico. The letter urges the incoming administration to stop deportations of asylum seekers and to rescind the “Remain in Mexico” and “Third Safe Country” agreements that have helped to characterize the Trump administration approach to Central American migration.

The letter traces some inhumane immigration policies back to the Obama administration, including separation of parents from children, and the promotion of Plan Frontera Sur, which enlisted Mexican security forces to stop Central American migrants from reaching the US border.

The groups want the Biden administration to end policies that support militarization of borders and US cooperation with and training of security forces involved in violating migrants’ rights. They also call on the President-Elect to end for-profit detention centers and services, make detention of immigrants a last resort, and restore temporary protected status (TPS) for US residents from Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador and extend TPS to residents from Guatemala. In addition, they call for allowing a repeal of a CDC order preventing migrants at the border from seeking protection in the US.

Overall the letter urges the future president to review security assistance to the region; revoking State Department certification of Honduran, Guatemalan, and Salvadoran human rights compliance related to US assistance; and suspending security assistance to Honduras “in light of widespread corruption and human rights abuses promoted by Honduran state actors.” New motions have been filed by US federal prosecutors in New York this month saying that Honduran president Juan Orlando Hernández has been involved in trafficking cocaine to the US.

Further, the groups want the Biden administration to end US training of security forces in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, and to cease US financing of training of these forces by their Colombian counterparts. They seek to stop US weapons from being sent to security forces and private brokers “without clear end use controls,” so that US weapons do not get into the hands of known rights violators or criminals, and they want increased transparency in CARSI funding and Leahy Law vetting.

The groups also critique US support for extractive and exploitative development models in the region, through multilateral development banks, and projects that cause environmental harm, violate labor laws, and disregard community land rights.
The letter calls for enforcing labor protections under the DR-CAFTA trade agreement, and for reforming the US approach to the region so that it is no longer rooted in the Cold War, mentioning the double standard, for example, in the US approach to alleged election fraud in countries with left governments, while ignoring credible fraud in Honduras in 2017.

Overall, the groups want to see less US government influence over domestic policy decisions in Central America, and also for the US to stop imposing economic sanctions on its neighbors.

Read the letter here.

Statement from Jean Stokan, Justice Coordinator, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas:
“Given the exodus of peoples from Central America fleeing for their very lives, there is urgency to shift from thinking that financial assistance can address the root causes of migration to instead reflect deeper: Why there is poverty and violence? How have US foreign and economic policies contributed to these conditions? This is clear in Honduras, where US security assistance has propped up a corrupt regime with a horrifying human rights record.  We hope the new Administration can seize on this new moment to reset U.S. foreign policy.”

Statement from Azadeh Shahshahani, Legal & Advocacy Director, Project South:
"It is time for the United States to formulate a foreign policy based on dignity, not domination. People's self determination in Central America and the rest of the Global South must be respected. And U.S. government officials and the war industry must be held to account for a history of grave human rights violations against people of the region."

Statement from Xochilt Sanchez, Organizer, Central America Resource Center - Los Angeles (CARECEN-LA):
“The Biden administration must commit to dismantling Trump-era immigration and foreign policy which intentionally targeted Central American immigrants and further militarized the region. Hurricanes Eta and Iota have decimated the region; extreme poverty, immigration and famine have worsened and will continue to grow. It is time to enact US policy that engages grassroots movements of the region and that respects human life and dignity.”

Statement from Alexis Stoumbelis, Executive Director of CISPES, Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador:
“Our message to Biden is that just being better than Trump is not good enough - and neither is going back to the Obama era of pro-corporate economic policies couched in the language of ‘development.’ The Biden Administration should listen to workers, environmental defenders and rural communities in Central America who - much like their counterparts here in the U.S. - are calling for bold investments to build a regenerative economy, to guarantee healthcare and education for all and to demilitarize their societies in order to build real democracy.”


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