Sen. Tom Carper recently visited some Central American countries with Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester and other members of Congress.
The Carper-led Congressional delegation met with officials of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador over five days.
The visit came just as President Donald Trump declared a national emergency to build a wall along the southern border of the U.S. Trump argues migrants are a safety and security threat to Americans. Congress recently appropriated Congress allocated $527 million to continue funding humanitarian assistance in Central America.
But Carper said many people in these countries seeking asylum in the U.S. are families fleeing domestic violence and gangs. They also suffer from high unemployment and high rates of teen pregnancy.
Carper said U.S. investments in these countries are producing some results. He said there’s optimism in places like El Salvador where a new president, Nayib Bukele, was just elected.
“The new, duly elected president’s 38-year-old mayor of San Salvador, a city of 2 million people," he said. "He’s dynamic, he’s smart, he’s got smart people around him, he’s a centrist, he’s a great fan of the United States of America.”
Carper said he’s also asked the Department of Homeland Security to allow people to apply for asylum at U.S embassies in their own countries. That means they wouldn’t have to travel to the U.S. to do it.
“It’s an idea very much worth pursuing and trying," he said. "We don’t have to try it across the world, we try it in a couple countries and see what we can learn. If it works, then that’s great. I like to say, find out what works and do more of that.”
Carper said despite corruption and gang violence in Central American countries, he believes progress is being made.