While President Donald Trump is focused on Mexican migrants, there actually are bad hombres in neighboring Honduras.

 

Criminals, including drug and human traffickers, and corrupt officials are threatening democratic institutions and stability in Honduras. Nearly 100,000 children have fled gang violence to come to the United States since 2014. U.S. leadership is critical to address this crisis.

Our political science class recently visited Washington, D.C., to offer five recommendations for U.S. policymakers.

While we currently send $105 million in assistance to Honduras, democracy is seriously at risk from the criminals who control the wealth and power in the country. The average citizen lives in poverty and fear. Unless these challenges are addressed, migrants and illicit drugs will continue to flow to the U.S. unabated.

We must work to end corruption

To tackle corruption, we recommend strengthening the mission established by the Organization of American States to support judges and prosecutors in the fight against the cycle of corruption and impunity in Honduras. International oversight is necessary to break it.

We recommend international judges mentor their counterparts and oversee the judicial system until there is a noticeable reduction in corruption.

Increase funding for schools

Currently, 41 percent of boys and 34 percent of girls drop out of school by the seventh grade, largely to work to support their struggling families.

While we recognize the austere budget environment in Washington, we nevertheless recommend additional funding for UNESCO to build schools for secondary education.

We also recommend offering stipends to families that keep their children in school and establishing a community college scholarship for Hondurans to study in the United States.

Work to end human trafficking

Countless Hondurans are trafficked every year. And Jacksonville is one of the major cities where this is taking place — it is the third largest location for this crime in the country.

We advise the president to host a summit to develop a comprehensive plan to combat human trafficking in Honduras and neighboring countries, with the goal of pushing the region to align their human trafficking laws with international standards.

Expand criteria for asylum

Mothers far too often have to send their children unaccompanied on dangerous journeys to the United States to escape gang violence. The U.S. should expand the criteria for asylum to include fleeing gang violence and also broaden those eligible to sponsor them. We also recommend a camp in Honduras for children who are rejected for asylum but still face violence.

reduce narcotics imports

While politically dead on arrival in the current Washington environment, combating violence in Central America requires reduction of demand for narcotics in the United States, the largest importer of illicit drugs in the world. Drug treatment centers rather than prison is a crucial step, as well as the decriminalization of drugs.

Boost the Honduran economy

Regional trade deals have decimated the agricultural and textile industries in Central America which cannot compete with cheaper subsidized U.S. goods.

Our 2004 trade deal has caused a trade deficit in Honduras every year.

While Congress may not support it, we recommend Trump offer a short-term suspension of cheap U.S. exports to help jumpstart the Honduran economy.

The stories we heard of migrant children are heartbreaking. Since we are the largest consumer of illicit drugs, we must take responsibility and help support the struggle for democracy in Honduras.

It’s time to stop the bad hombres!

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Ambassador Nancy Soderberg’s class visited Washington from April 9 to April 11 and met with senior officials of the Departments of Defense and State, the Wilson Center, the National Security Staff of the White House, the CIA, the staffs of Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio and officials of the Embassy of Honduras.