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USAID Increases Efforts to Address Irregular Migration from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras

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The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is doing its share to help aggressively address the economic, security, and governance challenges that drive irregular migration from Central America to the United States.

USAID is implementing programs focused on the root causes undermining people’s hope for their futures in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, and helping them to build the peace, prosperity, and stability they deserve.

The United States has a history of partnerships with the people of these countries. USAID programs promote government accountability to citizens and mobilize the private sector to advance greater economic and educational opportunities for those likely to migrate. They help combat rampant crime and violence, tackle corruption and impunity, and mitigate the effects of climate change. USAID provides hope to the citizens of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras so that they can remain in their home countries and not be compelled to make the dangerous journey north.

USAID’s efforts include:

Providing Opportunities to Those Most Likely to Migrate: The main drivers of irregular migration from Central America are economic hardship and pervasive high levels of violence. These have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and damage wrought by Hurricanes Eta and Iota in late 2020. Building on USAID’s recent programs that helped create tens of thousands of jobs, increase incomes, and foster small business growth, new job creation initiatives in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador will target at-risk youth, victims of crime and violence, and the rural poor.

For example, in Guatemala, USAID inaugurated a new agriculture center in the Western Highlands, an area that many Guatemalans are leaving to help more than 20,000 small farmers improve their productivity and product quality and increase incomes. In El Salvador, USAID will work with local small and medium-sized businesses to create 10,000 jobs for likely migrants, including vulnerable and displaced youth. In Honduras, USAID is scaling up agricultural assistance to serve 40,000 farmer households and providing skills training to returnees, making them more employable and economically resilient and less likely to re-migrate.

Partnering with the Private Sector: USAID works with local and international companies in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to capitalize on their know-how, resources, and expertise to accelerate job creation. USAID’s partnerships with major companies, such as Walmart, Starbucks, and Tigo, promote private investment, expand opportunities, and propel economic growth. Recently, USAID leveraged more than $85 million from the private sector and other organizations in these countries to support vocational training, education, and employment opportunities for at-risk youth, and increased food security and incomes for vulnerable communities.

Providing Humanitarian Assistance: USAID provides emergency assistance including emergency food, shelter, water, sanitation and hygiene, and other support in response to needs arising from shocks and natural disasters. USAID deployed a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) to lead the U.S. Government’s humanitarian response to mitigate the impact of recurrent drought, severe food insecurity, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic including in communities still recovering from back-to-back hurricanes that hit just five months ago. The DART is focused on rapidly scaling up emergency food assistance, programs to help people earn an income, protection for the most vulnerable, and other critical humanitarian programs. These response and early recovery programs save lives and ensure people can quickly recover economically after a disaster.

Reducing the Economic Impact of Natural Disasters: USAID’s humanitarian assistance helps communities strengthen their ability to withstand disasters, such as hurricanes, and limit their economic impact. For example, in eight urban neighborhoods of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, USAID helps communities operationalize early warning and response systems to mitigate destruction and loss of life due to landslides as well as supports small-scale improvements to homes at risk of being damaged in extreme weather events. In drought-affected areas of all three countries, USAID teaches farmers sustainable agricultural practices to build resilience to climate and weather extremes and increase yields, sometimes by up to 50 percent.

Supporting Returned Migrants: USAID will continue supporting the reintegration of returned migrants. USAID provides returned migrants with support for workforce training and job placement, school reintegration, health programming, and psychosocial counseling for Central Americans. The USAID programs give migrants concrete opportunities so that they do not attempt the dangerous trek north again.

In February 2021, USAID launched a new program with the Government of Guatemala, the Government of Taiwan, and private sector partners to provide youth and returned migrants in the rural Western Highlands region with internet connectivity and marketable vocational and professional skills to improve their ability to find jobs. Under this partnership, USAID and Taiwan support certification, training, and psychosocial services for youth and returnees, while partners like mobile service provider Tigo contribute internet connectivity and computers in homes and community centers.

Encouraging Legal Pathways: In coordination with the Department of Labor, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of State, USAID helps the governments of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to identify, vet, and register eligible workers for temporary employment in the United States. USAID provides training when necessary, connecting applicants with American businesses, and facilitating their engagement with the State Department for visa processing.