International Justice Mission (IJM) welcomes the introduction of two pieces of bipartisan legislation that authorize foreign assistance to Central America.
The United States-Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act (H.R. 2615), sponsored by U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-NY) and ranking Republican Michael McCaul (R-TX), addresses poverty, governance, corruption and security in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. The Central American Women and Children Protection Act, sponsored by the Co-Chairs of the Congressional Central American Caucus, U.S. Representatives Norma J. Torres (D-CA) and Ann Wagner (R-MO), authorizes the U.S. State Department to enter into bilateral agreements, known as Women and Children Protection Compacts, with the Governments of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. These compacts would protect women and children in the Northern Triangle from domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse and neglect, and hold perpetrators accountable.
IJM’s Guatemala office provides legal services to child victims of sexual assault and collaborates with Guatemalan law enforcement officers to investigate and prosecute perpetrators. On March 29, 2019, the executive branch suspended virtually all aid to Central America, including a four-year grant from the U.S. Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement to expand IJM’s program throughout Guatemala.
With the support of U.S. foreign aid and American non-governmental organizations, Guatemala has made significant strides in recent years in prosecuting cases of sexual assault of children. Over the past four years, the number of arrests for child sexual assault has nearly tripled and convictions for the crime have quadrupled. According to IJM Senior Advisor, Holly Burkhalter, “IJM’s experience in Guatemala demonstrates two things: first, that a resource-poor country can make real progress in combating violence against children, and second, that U.S. aid programs can help make life safer for those most vulnerable to violence.”
Gary Haugen, IJM CEO, called upon the Trump Administration to restore aid to Central America saying, “Mass caravans are going to be the future of Central America if the justice systems there are not reformed to more effectively protect citizens and restrain and deter predators.”