US, El Salvador pledge to work against irregular migration, gangs, trafficking

San Salvador, Aug 29 (AFP/APP):The United States signed an agreement with El Salvador Wednesday pledging to tackle irregular migration and target human traffickers and gangs, immigration authorities said, stressing the accord does not designate the Central American nation as a safe third country.

US Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan met with Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele and other government officials in San Salvador Wednesday.

Bukele said in a press conference that the representatives from the two countries had discussed how to “cooperate” on solving shared problems and signed a letter of intent to form a “united front” in the coming weeks.

McAleenan dismissed the idea that the document was the first step in designating El Salvador as a safe third country, a reference to an agreement between the US and Guatemala that requires US-bound migrants who enter Guatemala to seek asylum there instead.

He recommended a broader approach to irregular migration, including tackling issues that may prompt people living in Central American countries to flee violence and poverty there in the first place.

“DHS (Department of Homeland Security) is grateful to work closely with our Salvadoran counterparts to address the crisis faced in the region,” McAleenan said in a statement. “At the same time, we share an understanding that our collaborative work can be expanded to the benefit of both of our countries.”

The statement said the two countries planned to work together on border security and law enforcement, information sharing, asylum solutions and “continuing our dialogue to promote opportunity and investment in El Salvador.”

McAleenan specified that meant support to Salvadoran border police and efforts to combat gang violence and human trafficking.

He said the number of El Salvadorans who tried to cross into the US dropped from 16,000 in May to 6,000 so far in August.

McAleenan also promised to increase available work visas so Salvadorans are able to work legally in the US’s agricultural industry.

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