A group of California legislators has conveyed concern in person to the president of El Salvador about the surge in unaccompanied minors from Central America who are traveling illegally to the United States, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said Thursday.
Steinberg is leading the delegation of six lawmakers that met Wednesday with El Salvador President Salvador Sanchez Ceren in San Salvador to discuss issues including the flood of 57,000 unaccompanied minors from Central America who have illegally crossed the U.S. border in recent months.
"In the short term, they are actively now discouraging people from going. They are stepping up their prosecution of groups that help facilitate these journeys," Steinberg said. Asked if he thinks the surge will stop soon, he said, "It's hard to tell."
"We asked [Ceren] to work with us, to invest in education and invest in economic opportunity for young people because in the end this is the only thing that is going to stop this," Steinberg said. "They have a real positive vision to improve the living conditions for people but they have a long way to go. It's a poor country."
One issue addressed was a $277-million aid package offered by the United States government for education and economic development that had been held up because the El Salvador government had not met conditions for adopting legislation to combat money laundering.
Steinberg said he talked to the president of the Legislative Assembly of El Salvador about the importance of the aid and hours later the money laundering legislation was passed.
"I don't know if there was a cause and effect," Steinberg said. In addition to the Senate president pro tem, the trip includes state Sen. Ellen Corbett (D-San Leandro) and Assembly members Jose Medina (D-Riverside), Henry T. Perea (D-Fresno), V. Manuel Peréz (D-Coachella) and Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville).
The July 14-23 educational trip also includes stops in Guatemala and Panama. Host governments are paying many ground expenses, while lawmakers are covering the costs of flying to the countries, some by dipping into their political accounts.