On March 28, 2019, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielsen signed on behalf of the United States a Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) on border security cooperation in Central America.
HSA Secretary Nielsen met with Guatemalan Minister of Government Enrique Degenhart, Honduran Security Minister Julian Pacheco, and Salvadoran Minister of Justice and Public Security Mauricio Landaverde
The MOC – the first ever multilateral compact on border security – has the goal of improved synchronized cooperation between the countries to strengthen border security, prevent the formation of new migrant caravans, and address the root causes of the migration crisis through synchronized efforts and will include the following: human trafficking and smuggling; combating transnational criminal organizations and gangs; expanding information and intelligence sharing; and strengthening air, land, and maritime border security.
The signatories will pursue each of these focus areas through an array of agreed-upon initiatives. Technical working groups with representatives from each country will monitor the initiatives and ensure they are carried out expeditiously. The law enforcement groups will meet periodically throughout the year, with Secretary Nielsen and the Northern Triangle Ministers continuing to meet in the coming months to ensure continued momentum.
Secretary Nielsen expressed her gratitude for the continued collaboration and partnership of the three countries as they work to slow the increased irregular migration and develop a regional approach to addressing the ongoing humanitarian and security emergency at the southern border of the U.S.
Notwithstanding Secretary Nielsen’s expression of gratitude to the three governments, late on March 28, 2019, U.S. President Donald Trump notified Congress that it intends to reprogram $450 million in aid to the three countries and has already sent instructions to embassies in the region.
In 2016, after an increase of Central American children came to the Texas border, the Obama administration doubled aid to the region to approximately $750 million. The aid targets violence and insecurity as well as governance and corruption. Much of the aid is disbursed through U.S. civil society organizations.
The initiatives of the U.S. and other governments against transnational organized crime in Central America can be classified in eight areas: whole-of-government solutions; interdiction of criminal flows; targeting of transnational criminal organization leaders; use of the military in a domestic law enforcement; institutional reform within law enforcement; targeting the financial flows and resources of organized criminal groups; prison control and reform; and binational and multinational cooperation against organized crime. The MOC is a non-binding document that essentially entails a commitment to continue ongoing talks and cooperation efforts on security and law enforcement.
On March 31, 2019, President Trump threatened to close the border with Mexico, notwithstanding warnings that shutting the border would cause immediate economic damage on U.S. consumers and businesses while doing little to slow the flow of migrants into the U.S.5
Clearly cutting aid to the three Northern Triangle countries and shutting the border with Mexico would exacerbate the problem since the violence, insecurity and lack of opportunities in the three countries stimulate the demand to emigrate to the U.S. The lack of a comprehensive and bipartisan approach to immigration continues to deteriorate the U.S. institutions and processes by which the U.S. government is able to deal with the migration crisis. A key country in terms of its location and the similarity of its legal system with the three Northern Triangle countries is Mexico.
The current issue of the IELR will discuss these developments in more detail.
 David J. Lynch, Maria Sacchetti and Joel Achenbach, Threat to close border is pressed, Wash. Post, Apr. 1, 2019, at A1, col. 3.