CULPEPER STAR-EXPONENT, CULPEPER STAR-EXPONENT
Just back in the states, U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger spent last week visiting Central America as part of a bipartisan House delegation focused on American border security and tackling illegal migration’s root causes.
The Virginia congresswoman was joined in El Salvador and Guatemala by Reps. Lou Correa, D-Calif.; John Katko, R-N.Y.; Jimmy Panetta, D-Calif.; and Tony Gonzales, R-Texas.
Meeting with those countries’ civil society and business leaders, the lawmakers discussed boosting the region’s response to migrant smuggling and human trafficking, cracking down on transnational criminal groups, addressing poverty and migration, and strengthening U.S. ports of entry.
The delegation’s visit focused on congressional oversight of the Biden administration’s actions to stem irregular migration from, and via, Central America to the United States, Spanberger’s office said in a statement Friday.
In both nations, the legislators also met with U.S. Foreign Service, U.S. Department of Commerce and U.S. Agency for International Development officers to discuss their work implementing the administration’s strategy to address migration’s causes.
“To better understand the challenges coming from Central America and how they impact the security of the United States, it’s important to meet directly with officials, business leaders and law enforcement on the ground,” Spanberger said.
Formerly, as a federal law-enforcement officer and CIA case officer, she worked narcotics-trafficking cases.
The trip gave lawmakers an opportunity to learn more about how the United States “can bring order to its southern border and work in partnership with these countries to prevent further humanitarian crises in the region,” Spanberger said.
The delegation’s members talked with leaders about how irregular immigration affects their societies and economies, the challenges they face in trying to build opportunities for their countrymen and to mitigate people’s motivations to migrate. They discussed how the U.S. government can support those efforts, at home and through international engagement, the congresswoman’s office said.
Spanberger thanked the governments of Guatemala and El Salvador for their cooperation during the fact-finding mission.
“I look forward to continuing my work in Congress related to the security of our borders and the long-term stability of our neighbors in Central America,” she said.
In both countries, the delegation toured “near-shoring” facilities, including an El Salvador technology company that runs training programs to create opportunities for Salvadorans at home and Guatemalan manufacturing facilities that leverage U.S. investment to create stable jobs.
In El Salvador, Spanberger and the delegation visited the headquarters of the Joint Border Information Group, which assembles law enforcement and immigration authorities from seven countries—plus Interpol—to share data on transnational criminal activities, especially migrant smuggling and human trafficking, Spanberger’s office said.
In El Salvador, Foreign Minister Alexandra Hill Tinoco and Ambassador Milena Mayorga welcomed the delegation for bilateral discussions at the Foreign Ministry about migration’s economic, political and social impacts on El Salvador.
In Guatemala, the House members met with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei, Ambassador Alfonso Quiñónez and Cabinet members to discuss the same issues.
In the last session of Congress, then-President Donald Trump signed into law Spanberger’s bipartisan legislation—which she led with Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas—to crack down on Central American trafficking and smuggling networks and strengthen U.S. border security.
Last month, a bipartisan House majority voted to pass the Virginian’s bipartisan legislation to combat fentanyl trafficking on America’s southern border.
The bill was based on provisions in Spanberger’s bipartisan Securing America’s Borders Against Fentanyl Act, which she also introduced last month, her office said.