Obama to ask Congress for $1 billion for Central America

The Hill — President Obama will ask Congress in his 2016 budget to approve $1 billion to help Central American countries in the wake of last summer’s surge of unaccompanied children entering the United States illegally.

In an op-ed published in The New York Times Thursday, Vice President Joe Biden said the “security and prosperity of Central America are inextricably linked with our own.”

Biden, whom Obama has tasked with leading an effort to aid countries such as El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, wrote that inadequate education, crime, a lack of investment and corruption are impeding their growth.

“On Monday, President Obama will request from Congress $1 billion to help Central America’s leaders make the difficult reforms and investments required to address the region’s interlocking security, governance and economic challenges,” Biden said.

He said it would be triple the amount the U.S. normally provides to that region.

Obama will make the request in his budget for fiscal 2016 on Monday.

The money would allow the U.S. to fund several efforts Biden outlined such as providing community-based policing and eliminating crime networks.

Under the plan, the U.S. would provide $400 million to promote trade, reduce poverty and improve customs and border integration, among other programs, according to a White House fact sheet.

The U.S. would also give $300 million to improve security and reduce crime. Nearly $250 million would help Central American governments identify necessary reforms they could implement,

The region’s leaders must also realize, Biden said, that aid from the U.S. would not be enough to help them recover. Instead, he recommended that each government manage their finances more effectively.

The increased request comes with House Republican lawmakers focused on border security.

House GOP lawmakers have delayed a vote on a bill that is intended to address security at the U.S. border because of jurisdictional issues involving two congressional committees.

Agencies that supervise the border, which are funded through the Department of Homeland Security, are still operating on 2014 funding levels. Congress must pass a new funding bill by Feb. 27 or the entire department could shut down.

A House-passed bill from earlier this month would provide additional funding to Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, but the measure contains riders congressional Democrats and the White House oppose because they would undermine the president’s immigration actions.