El Salvador shares US goal of security in tackling MS-13, drug trafficking

MS13 El Salvador
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MS13 El Salvador

Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently visited El Salvador and congratulated our government on the arrest and prosecution of hundreds of MS-13 gang members. MS-13 originated in the United States, but the gang also has strong ties to El Salvador and other countries. As the foreign minister of El Salvador, I participated in the meetings with Sessions and also recently met with Vice President Mike Pence at the Conference for Prosperity and Security in Central America, in Miami.

I am hopeful this is the beginning of even closer cooperation between our countries, not just in combatting the deadly threat of MS-13, but on a wide range of immigration and security issues that matter to the United States.

{mosads}El Salvador is ready to do more to support these shared objectives. This includes continuing to arrest and prosecute MS-13 gang members in El Salvador, creating specialized units and jails for holding MS-13 gang members who are criminal deportees, addressing the cause of emigration from El Salvador by improving economic prospects, and cooperating to prevent the transport of illegal drugs across our borders.

In return, we hope the U.S. will recognize how far we have come since the end of El Salvador’s civil war 25 years ago. We have established a multiparty democracy, improved government efficiency, supported privatization initiatives and implemented a U.S. backed security plan. We were the first country to join the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), which has removed trade barriers and boosted trade with the United States. Notably, the U.S. has a trade surplus with El Salvador of $466 million, supplying us with nearly 40 percent of our imports.

The U.S.-El Salvador relationship is mutually beneficial. Pence reaffirmed the solid ties that unite our two nations when I met with him in June. He emphasized his appreciation for El Salvador’s commitment to the Alliance for Prosperity, which supports new programs to prevent money laundering, strengthens policing, reforms the judiciary and encourages foreign investment in partnership with the other two members of the Northern Triangle, Guatemala and Honduras. This alliance is imbued with the foresight that the security of the U.S. is intertwined with that of Central America. In the vice president’s words, we must work together to create “conditions for shared security and economic growth across the hemisphere.”

To that end, we are ready to do more to help address U.S. concerns about irregular immigration. This includes our willingness to take further action to prevent migration and to accept migrants who are in the U.S. irregularly when they are deported. We recognize the U.S. interest in preventing irregular migration. In furtherance of that goal, we believe  that it would be a mistake for the U.S. to end the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Salvadorans. I am referring to the program that enables approximately 190,000 Salvadoran migrants — many of whom fled El Salvador after devastating earthquakes — to remain in the U.S. legally.

TPS has a number of benefits for both of our countries.  First, the program allows a small portion of Salvadorans to stay in the U.S. legally, as long as they continue to comply with U.S. laws.  Second, it ensures that these persons who remain are documented and respectful of U.S. law.  Third, El Salvadoran legal immigrants, including those who are in TPS, are part of the backbone of American commerce, including in the service, agriculture, and construction sectors.  Fourth, ending TPS will be catastrophic for El Salvador’s economy because it will add more deportees to the ranks of the unemployed and eliminate the remittances, which support many families in El Salvador.  Receiving deportees that our developing economy cannot sustain could destabilize the Northern Triangle and our economy.  This could in turn lead lesser-skilled Salvadorans to migrate illegally to the U.S. to escape worsening conditions and more limited opportunities in El Salvador.

We ask the U.S. to work with us toward a solution that is a win-win for both countries by permitting our TPS participants to remain, as they have always been, a hard-working community and one that is respectful of the laws and values of the United States.

We have already made great strides to address irregular migration by investing an additional $3 billion, along with our Northern Triangle neighbors, in security, education, improvement of the business climate and the strengthening of our institutions. We have also increased our coordination and cooperation with the U.S. Southern Command, and with various law enforcement and intelligence agencies, to address other regional threats to security.

My government is committed to these beneficial partnerships with the U.S. in furtherance of our shared security, immigration and economic objectives.

His excellency Hugo Martinez is the minister of Foreign Affairs for the Republic of El Salvador

Tags El Salvador Foreign relations of the United States Hugo Martinez Immigration International relations Jeff Sessions Jeff Sessions Mike Pence Mike Pence MS-13

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