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Rep. McGovern On His Visit To Central America: 'These Are Human Beings Who Put Their Families First'15:41
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Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone, left, and Congressman Jim McGovern walk through Miami International Airport to board their flight to Honduras. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)MoreCloseclosemore
Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone, left, and Congressman Jim McGovern walk through Miami International Airport to board their flight to Honduras. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Congressman Jim McGovern has recently returned from a fact finding trip to El Salvador and Honduras, aimed at shining a spotlight on conditions in those countries as the Trump administration winds down Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Hondurans and Salvadorans currently in America.

McGovern also met with parents of children who had been separated at the border when crossing into the U.S. and then deported back to Central America without their children.

Guest

Rep. Jim McGovern, he represents the Massachusetts 2nd District. He tweets @RepMcGovern.

Interview Highlights:

On the conditions in Honduras and El Salvador during his recent visit to the country: 

"They are incredibly dangerous countries. They're beautiful countries with incredible people but they're plagued by violence, a murder rate that is astounding. I mean, El Salvador is more dangerous than Afghanistan is right now. There are many, many people who come to the United States, many in our community, who are here because they're fleeing the violence, they are here to protect their children.

"What I witnessed from countless interviews with individuals is that people are afraid for their lives, they're afraid that they and their families will be killed by gangs. They don't trust the security forces that have been brutal in many respects. I mean, these are human beings who are putting their kids first."

On what he think is at stake for the people in the U.S. from El Salvador and Honduras who are losing their TPS:

"Many of those people have been granted TPS because of natural disasters that occurred 20 years ago. But over the last 20 years, the internal conditions in these countries have gotten worse. Donald Trump said we're going to end [TPS].

"The problem with that is that over 20 years people have gotten married, they have kids, they own homes, they have businesses, they have lives here. They're valued members of our community. We should be talking about how to give these people a pathway to citizenship so they can keep their families intact."

On how he responds to critics who say two decades is more than enough time for the infrastructure to significant after the hurricanes back in 1998: 

"I helped draft the TPS statue. The key word is protected. It was designed to protect people. TPS is granted for a number of reasons. One is natural disasters, another is civil strife, human rights violations, where people's lives are being threatened.

"With regard to the hurricane in Honduras, things have improved in terms of infrastructure. Same thing in El Salvador with regard to the earthquake. They have improved, but there were other aspects that have gotten worse.

"The administration should have simply re-designated TPS for those reasons — because of the violence and terrible levels of civil unrest have given the need for TPS to be extended. So when the administration says things have changed, well read the statute. The law basically should compel us to extend TPS for both nationalities."

On why he thinks Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) should be abolished: 

"ICE was created at the time to go after terrorists and drug dealers and people that would be a great threat to our country. We have other agencies or departments that actually do that as well. And that's one of the reasons why I voted against ICE to begin with. But, what ICE has turned into is a force that has been about separating families. I mean, you may have read the story recently of a young man who was bringing his wife who was pregnant to the hospital. She's about to have a baby and was pulled over and apprehended and taken by authorities and is now subject to deportation.

"I means, is that what we really want to do. Is that where our focus ought to be. Look I want to go after terrorists. I want to go after the bad guys. I want to go to people that might do harm to anybody in this country. But would ICE has become is a force that is gone after families — it has been about separating families."

This segment aired on August 20, 2018.

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