Statement by Ambassador Ronald D. Johnson about US-El Salvador cooperation agreement regarding the examination of protection applications
September 20, 2019
I believe that today is an extremely important day in our bilateral relationship. The United States has always been a country of migrants and there is no doubt that throughout the centuries legal migrants have left their positive mark on our national character. We are going to continue to welcome legal migration and people with valid requests for asylum, shelter and other types of protection. This is a subject that has touched the lives of many people, including mine. My wife, Alina, lived that same experience of leaving her home behind and legally emigrating from Cuba to the United Stated when she was a child.
However, it is undeniable that the region is going through a serious illegal migration crisis that is affecting thousands of people. We have seen again and again how people lose their lives or put their children at risk by taking a trip that often ends in tragedy. It is important to make clear that our emphasis on the issue of migration is centered on humanity, on those thousands who go through all kinds of dangers. We want to prevent people who are already vulnerable from being victims. If El Salvador, the United States and the other countries in the region continue to establish agreements like the one we signed today, I have no doubt that we can save lives.
Our message has always been the same: don’t make the illegal journey. The risks and costs are very high, and the only ones that benefit from illegal migration are coyotes. Today more than ever, entering the country illegally or applying for asylum at the border has ceased to be an option.
The United States has taken concrete actions in recent days aimed at reducing the illegal migration crisis. While we protect and strengthen our borders, we study ways to serve migrants who, for very different reasons, have chosen to leave their countries. However, this is a challenge that we must face together.
Today, El Salvador has taken a step forward so that together we can work to offer migrants humane treatment while they wait for the processing institutions to study their protection requests. El Salvador’s friendly actions today allows us to take joint actions that address this problem, and are an element within a larger strategy to reduce illegal migration, protect the borders of the region and combat human and property trafficking.
This agreement not only helps in the issue of asylum and protection, but also drives us to explore ways to expand our cooperation. Some studies estimate that El Salvador is losing up to one billion dollars annually due to smuggling. If our cooperation helps to find solutions for El Salvador to better regulate the trade that passes through its borders, the impact will be indisputable. We seek to expand opportunities for legal work in the U.S., especially in the agricultural sector, and we will foster bilateral cooperation that builds trust with potential investors seeking to create employment in El Salvador.
El Salvador is experiencing a crucial moment and its country needs its citizens more than ever.
From our embassy we are working tirelessly with the government of El Salvador to create opportunities for Salvadorans to build their future right here. May God bless El Salvador, and may God bless the United States.
***This a courtesy translation, only the original text issued in Spanish should be considered authoritative.