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National Security Groups Send Letter to Congress Urging Passage of Dream and Promise Act (H.R. 6)

 

Congress Must Act to Protect Americans at Home and Interests Abroad

A recording of the call is here.

Earlier today, national security experts gathered to highlight a letter signed by groups from across the nation explaining the importance of passing the Dream and Promise Act of 2019 (H.R. 6) from a national security perspective. The current administration’s attempt to strip protective status away from Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) holders will further destabilize regions and communities that are already struggling to deal with extraordinary security conditions.

It is in the very core interests of U.S. national security and foreign policy to pass permanent protections for Dreamers, TPS and DED holders, which can then sustain humanitarian efforts to build security, prosperity, and good governance abroad.

Below are quotes from today’s speakers:

Geoff Thale, Vice President for Programs at the Washington Office On Latin America said, “Instability and insecurity in Central America is not in our interest, nor in the interest of the Central American people. Insecurity is a major factor that forces many people to leave their homes. Ending TPS, DED, and protections for Dreamers will make this condition worse as it will increase instability by returning recipients back to countries that are unable to absorb them. We must pass HR6 and focus on improving governance so that institutions in the region can tackle widespread corruption and provide protection and opportunity to populations at risk.”

Jenna Ben-Yehuda, President and CEO of the Truman Project said, “HR6 alone will not solve the security challenges facing the Western Hemisphere, but failure to pass it–combined with continued efforts to strip these nations of stabilizing foreign assistance funds– will deepen violence in the region and increase migratory pressure to the United States.”

“This bill is a strong first step towards ensuring that the vulnerable men, women, and children facing violence and persecution in their home countries can have lives of peace and security,” said Bishop Garrison, Director of National Security Outreach and of Veterans for American Ideals, Human Rights First. “It would show America for what it truly is: a nation built on compassion and the rule of law; a nation that welcomes those who merely want the opportunity to contribute to the United States.”

Moira Whelan Founding Partner at Blue Dot Strategies and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State at the US State Department commented, “Diplomats and military leaders are clear: if Donald Trump goes unchecked, his reckless actions will create a national security crisis in the Western Hemisphere. We can’t let him put more people and more countries at risk. HR6 is a critical first step towards ensuring law abiding families living in the United States continue to help build our communities and represent the best of who we are. Security starts at home.”

The letter, signed by national security groups from across the nation, is below and available here.

Dear Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader McCarthy, Chairman Nadler, and Ranking Member Collins,

The 15 undersigned organizations strongly support the Dream and Promise Act of 2019 (H.R. 6), which provides permanent protection to eligible Temporary Protected Status (TPS), Deferred Enforced Departure (DED), and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients. Specifically, this letter focuses on the negative foreign policy and national security impacts of failing to pass a legislative solution to protect Salvadoran, Honduran, Haitian, and Nicaraguan TPS beneficiaries as well as Mexican DACA recipients. We urge you and your colleagues to immediately pass H.R. 6.

The administration’s decision to strip protective status away from TPS, DED, and DACA populations is contrary to U.S. national security interests and will further destabilize communities already struggling to cope with extraordinary security conditions. Legacies of violence from internal conflicts in the 1980’s still plague Central America. In 2015, El Salvador was the deadliest country in the world not at war. Major cities in El Salvador and Honduras, the main areas TPS holders would be returned to, have higher homicide rates than national averages. Levels of violence have soared in Nicaragua due to violent repression of protesters in 2018. Uncoincidentally in the past five years, Honduran and Salvadoran asylum applications have skyrocketed globally. Eighty percent of DACA recipients are of Mexican origin, a country that just experienced its most violent year on record. In January of this year, a record of 2,928 people were murdered and 164 kidnapped, according to official government statistics. Six percent of DACA recipients are Honduran or Salvadoran and would face similar threats.

Organized criminal groups not only perpetuate much of this violence, but they also assert control over the large territories in which they operate. One way they gain revenue is through extorting local populations. Organized criminal groups that extort local populations in Mexico have become increasingly prevalent and sophisticated. In Mexico City alone, criminal groups extort three out of every ten businesses, amounting to $24 million USD annually. A study by Honduran newspaper, La Prensa, found that on average Hondurans and Salvadorans pay almost $600 million USD a year in extortion fees.

The decision to end TPS, DED, and DACA will not only make hundreds of thousands vulnerable to illicit criminal and economic activity, it will also have a dramatic impact on the prosperity of local economies. Now and for the foreseeable future, remittances are both a de facto social safety net and a significant source of income for the national treasuries of TPS countries. In 2018, remittances comprised 39 percent of Haiti’s GDP, 22 percent of El Salvador’s GDP, and 20 percent of Honduras’ GDP. Cutting off this flow of funds, would hinder economies and diminish government revenue. For instance a study shows that remittances provided nearly 13 percent of the total Value Added Tax (VAT) collected in El Salvador. Removing these sources of income could be extremely destabilizing to countries that are already struggling to produce enough tax revenue to cover security, governance, and anti-poverty programs.

In addition, Haiti faces many economic and political issues that have perpetuated an ongoing humanitarian crisis, which inhibits its ability to receive their TPS population. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs determined that approximately 2.6 million people in Haiti are in need of humanitarian assistance as a consequence of years of inadequate emergency management. In February 2019, Haitians started mass national protests against President Jovenel Moïse in outrage of the country’s economic situation and government corruption. To date, the situation in Haiti is so dramatically unstable and unsafe that even international aid groups are hesitant to bring aid.

Already incipient and inadequate systems and resources for safe return and reintegration of deported migrants would be overloaded for countries with large TPS populations, such as El Salvador (195,000 recipients), Honduras (57,000 recipients), and Haiti (50,000 recipients), as well as DACA holders, like Mexico (548,000 recipients). Likewise, other government services lack the resources and would experience a shock as an influx of individuals attempts to access them.

Beyond requests from foreign governments to extend TPS, official U.S. government documents warned of the serious humanitarian and foreign policy repercussions of ending TPS. State Department officials expressed concern that returned Salvadorans and Honduras and their U.S. citizen children would be vulnerable to or recruited by gangs and other organized crime. While the U.S. government is currently funding it’s strategy for engagement in Central America of prosperity, security, and governance, returning TPS holders and their families would directly contradict this initiative.

Uprooting the lives of over a million immigrant families by rescinding their ability to lawfully work and study in the United States does nothing to secure this country nor improve the immigration system. In fact, an estimated 273,000 U.S. children, many under the age of 18 have a TPS-holder parent, and will likely face family separation or move to a country they have never known, where opportunities are scarce and insecurity is high. On the occasion that the Trump Administration actively targets TPS and DACA communities for deportation, U.S. agencies will be using resources that could be deployed to address real threats to safety and security. Termination and failure to pass permanent status for TPS holders undermines U.S. national security and foreign policy interests, jeopardizing efforts to build security, prosperity, and good governance abroad. Although several lawsuits have challenged these terminations, it is the responsibility of Congress to pass legislation. As such, we urge Congress to immediately pass H.R. 6.

Signed:

Alianza Americas
CARECEN DC
Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, US Provinces
ELCA – Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Foreign Policy for America
Human Rights First
Latin America Working Group
National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
Oxfam America
Presbyterian Church (USA)
Presbyterian Peace Fellowship
Truman National Security Project
VoteVets
Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)
Win Without War