Since the launch of the Collaborative Migration Management Strategy, the U.S. Government has made progress with its partners on each line of action, setting the strong foundation of collaborative migration management upon which to further build. The February 2, 2021 Executive Order, Creating a Comprehensive Regional Framework to Address the Causes of Migration, to Manage Migration Throughout North and Central America, and to Provide Safe and Orderly Processing of Asylum Seekers at the United States Border, called for a strategy to collaboratively manage migration. The Collaborative Migration Management Strategy, launched on July 29, 2021, identifies and prioritizes actions to strengthen cooperative efforts to manage safe, orderly, and humane migration in North and Central America. Specifically, the Collaborative Migration Management Strategy aims to address urgent humanitarian needs, promote access to protection and legal pathways for migration, improve secure and humane border management, and provide support for returnees to successfully reintegrate into their communities. Addressing these objectives requires sustained cooperation with a broad range of stakeholders, including Congress, civil society, international organizations, the private sector, labor unions, and governments inside and outside the region.
Stabilize Populations with Acute Needs
- Surge U.S. Humanitarian Assistance: In light of dire conditions and acute suffering faced by millions of people in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, Vice President Harris announced in April 2021 an additional $310 million in U.S. Government support for humanitarian relief and to address food insecurity from the Department of State, USAID, DOD and USDA. This announcement brought the total amount of humanitarian assistance provided by State and USAID to more than $272 million for the responses in Central America and Mexico. DOD additionally allocated or re-aligned a total of $26 million to address the humanitarian drivers of migration, with a focus on El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras projects. USDA increased its original $55 million commitment to support food security by extending two of its existing programs in Guatemala and Honduras by an additional $20 million, bringing the total value to $75 million.
- UN Humanitarian Response Plans: The United Nations (UN) launched the 2021–2022 Humanitarian Response Plans for El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras in response to high-level engagement and direct appeals by the United States, with the UN appealing for $588 million to target 4.3 million people in need of urgent humanitarian assistance. The United States has provided nearly $169 million toward the efforts laid out in the UN Humanitarian Response Plans for El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.
Expand Access to International Protection
- Build and Improve National Asylum Systems: In Guatemala, the State Department funded the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to continue supporting the Government of Guatemala to build its asylum capacity in line with its national action plan commitments under the Comprehensive Regional Protection and Solutions Framework (MIRPS). Guatemala received more than 1,000 asylum claims in 2021, which is over double the number received in any prior year. In Mexico, the Commission for Refugee Assistance (COMAR) accepted more than 131,000 applications for asylum in 2021, becoming the third highest receiver of claims in the world. With State Department support through UNHCR, COMAR granted asylum to 37,806 individuals in 2021.
- Establish Migration Resource Centers (MRCs): With State Department funding, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), UNHCR, and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) collaborated with the Government of Guatemala to establish three MRCs (referred to locally as Centros de Atención a Personas Migrantes y Refugiadas, or CAPMIRs) in Guatemala City, Tecun Uman, and Quetzaltenango. In addition, seven mobile units operate as part of the MRC network, covering six departments of Guatemala. The MRCs are located to benefit communities at risk of displacement, with high levels of emigration, and also along transit routes. They are designed to evaluate individuals’ protection, humanitarian, and economic needs in order to provide appropriate services and referrals, and have reached more than 32,000 individuals.
- Child Protection: In Guatemala, the State Department funded UNICEF to support the Guatemalan Migration Institute to establish a new Child Protection Unit (UAPNA), which deployed Child Protection Officers to the southern and northern borders of Guatemala. At the municipal level, State Department funding for UNICEF supported the establishment of Child Protection Offices in 40 percent of the 340 Guatemalan municipalities. In addition, State Department funding for UNHCR supported five departments in Guatemala implementing protocols for foster homes as an alternative care model for unaccompanied children. In Mexico, State Department funding to UNICEF and UNHCR helped child welfare authorities in Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez to eliminate long-standing backlogs of hundreds of best interest determinations for migrant children, which are required by Mexican law for all children encountered by the national migration authority.
Expand Access to Protection in Countries of Origin
- Humanitarian and Development Assistance for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs): In El Salvador, the State Department supported the UNHCR launch of the Creating Opportunities program to offer technical and professional courses to improve livelihoods of young IDPs and others at risk of violence or exploitation by gangs, including forced recruitment. In Honduras, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) funded psychosocial support, gender-based violence prevention activities, migration awareness, and children’s rights protection information to approximately 5,100 Honduran youth and to over 1,375 returned migrants and IDPs impacted by the 2020 hurricanes.
- Detection and Services for Trafficking Victims: USAID funding in El Salvador supported work at the border to detect and refer victims of trafficking for appropriate services. In Guatemala, the State Department funded the Pan American Development Foundation in partnership with local organizations to improve the detection of human trafficking cases and provide services to over 250 victims, including medical care, mental health support, legal assistance, education, and reintegration services.
Expand Third Country Labor Migration Programs While Improving Worker Protections
- Institutional Capacity Building: USAID supported the Guatemalan Ministry of Labor, the Honduran Ministry of Labor, and the Salvadoran Ministry of Foreign Affairs through the design and implementation of new processes to increase access to seasonal work opportunities abroad, resulting in a record number of H-2B visas issued to nationals of these countries in FY 2021 with further growth expected in FY 2022. In Costa Rica, State Department funding for IOM supported the processing of 18,000 migrant requests in the agricultural temporary labor migration category. In addition, State Department funding for IOM supported a bilateral dialogue forum between the Governments of Belize and El Salvador on opportunities to improve labor migration regularization procedures between both countries.
- Expand Support for Migrant Worker Protections: In El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, USAID funded pre-departure training for seasonal workers on their rights under the H-2 visa program. In El Salvador, State Department funding for IOM supported the participation of officials from the Ministries of Labor and External Affairs in a specialized course on best practices in labor migration management. The Salvadoran Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare also hosted an event to share best practices on ethical recruitment, involving participants from El Salvador, Honduras, and Panama.
- Strengthen Worker Outreach and Compliance Assistance: The U.S. Department of Labor, through its Wage and Hour Division (WHD) redoubled its efforts to conduct outreach to stakeholders regarding the requirements of the H-2A and H-2B programs, as well as the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act. Since August 2021, WHD has conducted 597 outreach events through its district and regional offices. WHD also provided compliance assistance and education to multiple national agricultural employer stakeholders and participated in a cross-departmental presentation hosted by DHS to over 300 stakeholders in addition to interagency meetings with Northern Central America government agencies to explain H-2A program requirements. Finally, WHD published a one-page summary sheet on key H-2A worker protections and shared this information, along with other outreach materials, such as worker rights cards and information on how to file a complaint, with consular staff and USAID contractors for distribution to workers.
Assist and Reintegrate Returned Persons
- Expand Reception and Reintegration Services: Over the last two years, almost 120,000 (22,308 women, 75,271 men, 7,866 girls and 13,740 boys) returned migrants have gone through the USAID-supported reception processes in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. USAID provided almost 9,000 returned or prospective migrants with psycho-social assistance, job skill development and vocational training, job orientation and placement, and reinsertion to school in the three countries. The USAID-supported Reception Center for Returned Migrants in Guatemala City established a permanent presence of officials to issue national identification cards to returnees free of charge, an official clinic and COVID-19 vaccination center for returnees, and the permanent presence of the Ministry of Labor, including initial pilot programs to link returnees with job opportunities.
- Support Assisted Voluntary Return (AVR): From August through December 2021, the State Department funded IOM to administer AVR supporting 1,250 vulnerable migrants in Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador. The State Department is funding an IOM regional program to expand AVR to additional countries and nationalities in the Western Hemisphere.
Foster Secure and Humane Management of Borders
- Institutional Capacity Building: In order to manage irregular migration and the growing number of unaccompanied children transiting through and departing from Guatemala, from July through December 2021, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) trained over 600 Government of Guatemala personnel. In addition, DHS mentors in Monterrey, Guadalajara, and Tijuana in Mexico worked alongside Government of Mexico officials to counter human smuggling and fraud. DHS mentoring efforts in Honduras resulted in the arrest of 110 human smugglers in 2021 and the transfer of over 190 unaccompanied migrant children to Honduras’s children and family directorate. These capacity building efforts represent a U.S. Government multi-agency effort to enhance security throughout the law enforcement process, from investigation to arrest to successful prosecution.
- Enhance Migrant-Smuggling and Human-Trafficking Investigations and Prosecutions: DHS information exchange with Mexican and Central American counterparts resulted in multiple leads for Operation Sentinel, an interagency counter-network operation targeting transnational criminal organizations affiliated with the smuggling of migrants. In addition, under Joint Task Force Alpha, the Department of Justice with DHS investigated and prosecuted human smuggling and trafficking groups operating in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. In Guatemala, efforts focus on the indictments and extraditions of Guatemalan human smugglers to the United States to face prosecution. In Honduras, DHS is supporting Operation Scorpion, a border surge initiative of the Honduran National Police, targeting human smugglers and traffickers.
- Increase Information Sharing with and among Regional Partners: State Department foreign assistance funding supported a regional effort to share criminal intelligence about transnational criminal organizations and associated criminals in Central America, with a focus on migrant smuggling and human trafficking. During 2021, this effort facilitated the identification of suspected members and networks of transnational criminal organizations.
Strengthen Regional Public Messaging on Migration
- Promote Accurate Information Countering Human Smugglers: The State Department provided factual information about U.S. immigration policies, including digital content specifically for Haitian migrants reaching more than 1.5 million individuals between August and December 2021. The State Department supported IOM to expand its Migration Information Portal and register over 4,500 new portal users from July to December 2021 to provide information on legal migration pathways in the region. USAID also launched migration messaging campaigns in the region: in El Salvador, the “De Aquí Soy” campaign launched in September 2021 and reached almost two million people in three months; in Honduras, the two-part documentary “In the Claws of the Coyote” reached approximately 800,000 viewers; and in Guatemala, the “Quédate Aquí” video series was seen by more than 1.6 million viewers on local TV.
Expand Access to Lawful Pathways for Protection and Opportunity in the United States
- Restart and Expand Central American Minors (CAM) Program and other U.S. Refugee Admissions Program Processing: In September 2021, the State Department and DHS expanded the eligibility categories for U.S.-based relatives who can apply for their children in Northern Central America to access the CAM program. State is working to streamline the CAM application and has put out a Notice for Funding Opportunities for organizations to have dedicated funding to work on CAM applications. Since its restart, cases for nearly 1,700 children have been either reopened or submitted. As of April 13, there have been 1,023 beneficiaries from CAM and other U.S. refugee admissions programs in Central America who arrived in the United States in FY 2022.
- Increase Access to Temporary Work Visas While Ensuring Worker Protections: DHS and DOL will issue two temporary final rules this fiscal year, providing for supplemental visa allocations of 18,000 H-2B visas reserved for nationals of Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, or Haiti (6,500 allotted for the first half of FY 2022 and 11,500 for the second half of FY 2022). These follow an H-2B supplemental allocation that DHS and DOL issued in May 2021, reserving an allocation for the first time for Northern Central American nationals. The United States has also undertaken efforts to significantly increase the number of Northern Central American agricultural workers who receive an H-2A visa, and has conducted outreach with stakeholders and provided information on program requirements and worker protections. Cierto Global, a non-profit ethical recruiter, has received private funding to establish operations in Guatemala in order to ethically recruit, train, and place H-2A agricultural workers on farms in the United States. USAID facilitated contacts between Cierto Global and the Government of Guatemala to help Cierto quickly establish operations in Guatemala.
- High-Level Donor Roundtable for Humanitarian Response Plans: In order to internationalize the response to the UN Humanitarian Response Plans and broaden the funding base, the United States, Canada, and European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations, in partnership with the UN, co-hosted a high-level virtual donor roundtable meeting in November 2021.
- Migration Ministerial Meeting: In October 2021, the United States and Colombia co-hosted a Ministerial Meeting in Bogotá on the Causes and Challenges of Irregular Migration, resulting in a Joint Declaration signed by 17 countries from our region, reiterating the United States’ commitment to working collaboratively to address the migration challenges throughout the region. In April 2022, the United States and Panama co-hosted a further Ministerial Meeting in Panama City to redouble collaborative efforts on the regional response to migration and displacement.