To speed migrant family reunifications, U.S. should work more closely with home countries, Rep. Hurd says
U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-San Antonio, said after returning from Central America that countries from which migrants have fled could help Homeland Security find the families of some 350 children who remain separated from parents who either left the United States voluntarily or were deported.
Hurd also said that the Trump administration’s ongoing efforts to cut aid to Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala have damaging effects on the goal of stemming migration from those countries by families beset by lawlessness and poverty.
“Further cuts to our foreign aid budget are going to hurt the cooperation with our allies to address the root cause of migration,” he said in an interview.
Hurd spent three days in Central America’s northern triangle on a trip with House Intelligence Committee staff members. He met with leaders of the three nations on issues related to immigration, the flow of illegal drugs and China’s growing influence in the region.
Hurd, a moderate in his party in his second term, faces a potentially tough re-election fight in a sprawling district that stretches from San Antonio nearly to El Paso and includes 820 miles of border with Mexico.
He said that his aim in making the trip was gaining a better understanding of the entire migration process, a key topic in his predominately Hispanic district. He was particularly interested, he said, in what happens to people deported from the United States.
In each of the countries he visited, Hurd said, he toured “welcome centers” where people returned from the United States and other countries receive assistance in repatriation.
He learned that officials in those countries enjoy significant success finding families of returning migrants, which he said could be a key to reunifying families in the cases of about 350 migrant children who remain in the United States after being separated from parents later returned to their countries.
They were among the 528 children as of last week still separated from parents at the border as part of the administration’s “zero tolerance” policies.
Hurd said Central American workers in the welcome centers were able to locate families of all but a handful of deported people and that he intends to inform Homeland Security officials of his findings.
“There are facilities that are organized and structured to solve this problem,” he said. “With the ability of these welcome centers to identify family members, we should be able to resolve the cases of these children and connect them with family members very quickly.”
Hurd, a CIA operative before entering Congress, said he also spoke with leaders about China’s recent investments in Central America.
“There is a strategy to gain a foothold in our backyard, and they are trying to do it by dangling investment monies in front of people,” he said.