Tomorrow, three Democratic members of Congress will introduce the Central America Family Protection and Reunification Act (CAFPRA). The bill compels the Department of State to work with the governments of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras to reunite undocumented migrant children who were separated from their parents because of Trump administration policy. It also seeks to refocus the debate on the root causes of migration—rather than the symptoms—by requiring the U.S. government to work with counterparts in the Northern Triangle countries to improve security and living conditions.
Yesterday, President Trump signed an Executive Order that put an end to the separation policy, but didn’t offer a solution for the 2,342 children separated from their parents after their families crossed the border seeking asylum. The children are currently being held under U.S. government supervision. Though unlikely to pass, the act, introduced by three prominent voices for Latin America in Congress—Eliot Engel (D-NY), Norma Torres (D-CA), and Adriano Espaillat (D-NY)—offers an immediate solution for the reunification of those children:
“It shall be the policy of the Department of State, including through its embassies in the Northern Triangle countries, to prioritize supporting governments and citizens of such countries to help facilitate reunification of any families who were separated by United States authorities due to the criminal prosecution of parents for illegal entry into the United States.”
The bill also requires Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to deliver a report to Congress within 30 days detailing the progress made toward reunification.
In addition, the CAFPRA attempts to reframe the debate over flows of undocumented migrants from the Northern Triangle to focus on addressing societal conditions in migrant sending countries. The bill includes requirements that the Department of State carry out research and reporting on gender-based violence, gang-related violence, and organized crime in the Northern Triangle and create an Office of Victims of Crime Committed against Individuals Removed from the United States. Part of this effort seems to be designed to offer a broader interpretation of what constitutes a valid asylum request.
The CAFPRA makes a valid point. The best way for the U.S. government to work towards stemming the flow of undocumented migrants from Central America is not a wall or a zero tolerance policy, but rather collaboration with Northern Triangle governments to build and reinforce institutions, strengthen the rule of law, and reduce violence.
Stay tuned on Global Americans tomorrow as we update this page on the vote on the CAFPRA.