Rep. Lofgren Introduces Bill to Address Root Causes of Refugee Crisis Before It Reaches our Border

June 27, 2019
Press Release
Legislation Would Combat Violence and Instability that Causes Thousands to Flee Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador


Washington, D.C.—Today, U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Chair of the House Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship, 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 is a comprehensive, 5-pronged strategy to combat the underlying violence and instability that compels thousands of refugees to flee Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. It would create a regional plan in Central America to enable families and children to seek refuge in the United States and other nations, without having to make the dangerous journey to our southern border.  


“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,” Rep. Lofgren said. “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 U.S. 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 underequipped 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 the violence, corruption, and poverty that has directly led to mass migration from this region to the United States;


  • 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 to seek protection at our southern border; 


  • Manage refugee claims regionally. This bill would establish Designated Processing Centers throughout Central America to register and process refugees for resettlement to the U.S. or elsewhere; as well as administer better programs to reunite children with U.S. relatives, reduce visa backlogs, and match migrants with U.S. businesses seeking temporary workers. For those denied entry to the U.S., this bill promotes their ability to find work in their home countries. Each of these actions would decrease the arrival of children and families at the border because they would now have options for safe travel;


  • 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 U.S. custody. The bill also creates new criminal penalties for smuggling and trafficking and expands the authority of law enforcement agencies to disrupt and prosecute these networks; and


  • Promote efficient processing of asylum seekers. This bill would increase the number of U.S. 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 and other vulnerable populations, thus also expediting backlogs.


Earlier this week, Rep. Lofgren voted for H.R. 3401, an emergency funding bill that would provide humanitarian assistance to migrant children and families in U.S. custody, ensuring they have access to clean water, healthy food, and appropriate shelter. The Northern Triangle and Border Stabilization Act complements H.R. 3401 by providing CBP medical and pediatric experts capable of keeping migrants healthy and helping to prevent future deaths. Rep. Lofgren’s bill would also improve the system by which migrant and refugee claims are processed to decrease the need for individuals to travel to our border. Most importantly, Rep. Lofgren’s bill takes the holistic and regional approach necessary to address the root causes of migration from Central America that has led to the humanitarian problems at our southern border.  


Rep. Lofgren has long fought for the United States to remain a beacon of freedom and hope for all people across the world. She has served as the top Democrat on the House Judiciary's Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship since 2007, is the granddaughter of immigrants, and has taught immigration law at the Santa Clara School of Law.