President Luis Guillermo Solís worried about U.S. immigration policies

March 16, 2017
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President Luis Guillermo Solís said he is concerned about the impact on Central America of U.S. plans to carry out mass deportations.

Solís spoke in Washington on Thursday morning during a conversation at the Inter-American Dialogue as part of his official trip to the United States this week. He said immigration issues likely will be part of his dialogue with U.S. government officials.

The president’s schedule includes meetings with Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly on Thursday evening and with Vice President Mike Pence at the White House on Friday.

At the Dialogue event, Solís outlined a series of situations that he said are worrying his administration. Among them, he highlighted the ongoing migrant flows in the region.

“Whatever happens with immigration policy in the United States, it is going to affect Central America significantly,” Solís said.

Nicholas Kamm / AFP
President Solís speaks at the Inter-American Dialogue (IAD) in Washington, DC. Nicholas Kamm / AFP

He said two flows of migrants are having a direct impact on Costa Rica: one is made up of migrants “brought back, sent back or coming back on their own” from the United States.

The other migrant flow is made up of people from the Northern Triangle — Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras — who are migrating to Costa Rica and Panama to get away from crime and other problems on their countries.

Solís said another immigration problem comes from migrants to Costa Rica from Asia and Africa. However, he noted that these flows have significantly decreased of late, likely because of recent policies issued by the U.S. as well as news about the threats they face on their route through Central America.

Those patterns might worsen once again in the face of a U.S. policy of massive deportations, Solís said.

The president stressed that this would have a severe impact on Costa Rica, as the country does not have the required conditions to withstand a massive arrival of migrants en route to or from the United States.

The number of migrants seeking to reach the U.S. “according to international agencies might double or triple in coming years, and that can put a lot of pressure on our country’s economic, social and political structures,” Solís said.

He highlighted, however, that even though immigration is a sensitive issue for Costa Rica, “the situation still is not out of control.”

Cooperation with Costa Rica

Solís’ visit to Washington coincides with the presentation of President Donald Trump’s first budget plan, which proposes drastic spending cuts.

Among these is a 31 percent cut in funding for the Department of State, which might represent cuts in international aid, including funds for Latin American countries.

Solís told reporters that he does not want to venture guesses about the future of aid for Costa Rica and the rest of Central America, as figures on budget plans are just now being disclosed.

“I don’t want to speculate about it. I don’t think it would help our interests,” Solís said. “How much it could specifically affect Central America and Costa Rica… that, we still don’t know.”

He noted that he believes there is a growing awareness among U.S. officials about the importance of security, migration and other issues in the region, and said he hopes budget cuts proposed by Trump will not impact aid programs.

Regarding his meeting with Kelly, the president said national security issues will be a priority. He said that Costa Rica has seen a significant influx of cocaine arriving from Colombia and a spike in homicides related to organized crime activity and battles between local cartels.

Solís noted that Costa Rica is currently curbing these problems, in part thanks to resources approved by the U.S. Congress last year that will not be affected by the next budget.

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