Torres, Engel, Lofgren Urge President Trump to Expand Life-Saving Program for Central American Refugees
WASHINGTON– Today, U.S. Representatives Norma J. Torres (D-CA), Eliot Engel (D-NY), and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) encouraged President J. Trump to expand the Protection Transfer Agreement (PTA). Through coordination with the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights, the International Organization on Migration, and the government of Costa Rica, the PTA offers a small number of Central Americans who are fleeing violence with an orderly and legal process to seek protection. While the majority of refugees are settled in the United States, Australia, Uruguay, and Canada have also resettled PTA individuals.
“This program has provided life-saving protection to a small number of families and individuals who have suffered persecution by their governments, or whose governments failed to protect them from persecution,” the lawmakers wrote. “We encourage you to commit to resettling a greater number of those families and individuals from the PTA who qualify for refugee status, and to expand the capacity of the PTA to temporarily shelter refugees. Likewise, we urge you to assess the feasibility of expanding in-country refugee processing of PTA individuals referred for refugee protection, which would facilitate the ability of families and individuals to legally and safely resettle in the United States.”
The full text of the letter is available below.
Dear President Trump,
We write regarding the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Central America, which continues to compel unaccompanied children and families to flee their communities in search of safety. As you know, we have strongly objected to your harsh and punitive response to this crisis, especially the separation of children from their parents. We strongly urge you to abandon this misguided and cruel border policy, and instead seek creative solutions to facilitate an orderly and legal process for children and families who are fleeing violence to seek asylum.
In particular, we encourage you to allow more vulnerable Central Americans to seek protection in a legal and orderly manner, by expanding the Protection Transfer Agreement (PTA), under which the United States, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and the government of Costa Rica have agreed to transfer small numbers of vulnerable individuals to Costa Rica while their claims for refugee status are adjudicated, and to resettle those who qualify for refugee status to the United States or other countries in the region. This program has provided life-saving protection to a small number of families and individuals who have suffered persecution by their governments, or whose governments failed to protect from persecution.
We encourage you to commit to resetting a greater number of those families and individuals from the PTA who are found to qualify for refugee status. We also encourage you to expand the capacity of the PTA to temporarily shelter refugees, either by revisiting the terms of the agreement with Costa Rica, or by creating similar agreements with other governments in the region. Likewise, we urge you to assess the feasibility of expanding in-country refugee processing of individuals referred for refugee protection who are selected for the PTA, so that more families and individuals are able to legally and safely resettle in the United States.
In the long-term, we are convinced that the best solution for both the United States and Central America is rein the shocking levels of violence that are destabilizing the region. We are firm supporters of the U.S. Strategy for Engagement in Central America. But we also recognize that Central America’s challenges will not be solved overnight; in the short term, the expansion of the PTA will relieve pressure at the U.S. border and reduce human suffering, providing those in need of immediate protection to a safe and orderly alternative to making the dangerous and difficult journey across Mexico.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this important request.