Hopeful Dems return from heart of violent Central America

Hopeful Dems return from heart of violent Central America
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A group of Democrats has returned from a visit to the heart of violent Central America expressing hope that multinational efforts to stabilize the region will stem the flow of migrants to the United States.

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Joining Vice President Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenDemocrats will need to explain if they shut government down over illegal immigration Trump thinks he could easily beat Sanders in 2020 match-up: report Biden marks MLK Day: Americans are 'living through a battle for the soul of this nation' MORE and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, the lawmakers met with the leaders of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, where corruption and violent drug wars have forced tens of thousands of people to flee north.

The migration fueled a crisis at the Texas-Mexico border in 2014, and officials –– who saw a jump in the number of arriving families late last year –– fear another surge if conditions in those countries don't improve.

Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperSenate Finance Dems want more transparency on trade from Trump Overnight Energy: California regulators vote to close nuclear plant | Watchdog expands Pruitt travel probe | Washington state seeks exemption from offshore drilling plan Overnight Regulation: Fight erupts over gun export rules | WH meets advocates on prison reform | Officials move to allow Medicaid work requirements | New IRS guidance on taxes MORE (Del.), senior Democrat on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said that, while many problems persist, he's optimistic that a coordinated effort can mitigate the violence and prevent another crisis.

“There is a moment of opportunity for the governments of the Northern Triangle to make their nations a better place to live, work, and raise a family,” Carper said Sunday in a statement. “By supporting their effort to do so, we will not only strengthen America, we will help create a stable, safe, and economically resilient region to our south, and help end the preventable humanitarian crisis at our border.”

The trip came as Democrats on Capitol Hill are furious with the administration over a series of home raids that rounded up scores of undocumented Central Americans with plans to deport them.

Last week, 146 House Democrats wrote a letter to Obama urging an immediate end to the raids and an overhaul of the asylum screening process. The lawmakers said the current process would send asylum-seeking families back to some of the most violent countries in the world, threatening their very lives.

"We are concerned that many of these families did not receive adequate due process and some may have already been deported to countries where they will face persecution, torture or death," Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) said in a joint statement. "We do not believe that these deportation and deterrent tactics will dissuade desperate mothers and children from fleeing for their lives."

Carper noted that Congress approved $750 million in the 2016 budget to help the Central American governments stabilize the region. The money is aimed "to develop the police force and justice system, community-level violence prevention programs, job and life-skills programs for at-risk youth, providing services at domestic violence assistance centers, and literacy and vocational education programs," he said.

"This investment underscores our nation’s own commitment to helping these nations address the root causes of poverty, violence, and hopelessness driving so many people north," Carper said.

But the Delaware Democrat also emphasized that the United States can't go it alone, and he called on the Central American governments to do more to advance their own cause.

"Change can only happen as part of a team effort," he said. "Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, their neighbors in the region, the United States, and the international community must all commit to realizing the goal of moving these nations forward.”

The visit featured meetings with Guatemala President Jimmy Morales, El Salvador President Salvador Sanchez Ceren and Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernandez.

Rep. Norma Torres (D-Calif.), who was born in Guatemala, was also on the trip.