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Lawmaker calls for Central American "Marshall Plan" after border visit

Mexican police crack down at border
Mexican police crack down at border 02:01

After visiting the U.S.-Mexico border Monday, Democratic Rep. Lou Correa of California called on the U.S. government to implement a "Marshall Plan" to stimulate the economies of developing nations in Central America and reduce the widespread poverty and violence plaguing the region.

"We should start talking about a Marshall Plan, so to speak, for economic stimulus in Central America and in Mexico," Correa told CBS News. Correa visited the port of entry between San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico, which was temporarily closed on Sunday after some migrants seeking asylum tried to force their way across. "We're spending a lot of resources, a lot of money, on attorneys, family separations, incarcerating people — it's not working."

US Elections Hispanic Congress
In this March 17, 2014, file photo, California Democrat Lou Correa speaks at the Capitol in Sacramento. AP

Named after Secretary of State George Marshall, the Marshall Plan was the U.S. government's initiative to invest billions of dollars to rebuild war-torn Western Europe after World War II.

Correa, who represents parts of Orange County, said leaders in the U.S., Mexico and Central America should discuss whether a program similar to the Marshall Plan could create economic opportunities in Central America. He said fighting gang violence in the Northern Triangle of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador would reduce the number of migrants who risk making the dangerous journey north.

"All countries interested need to sit down and come up with some solutions to give the refugees some options and hope for the future," Correa said.

The tensions at the southwest border intensified on Sunday as U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents fired tear gas to repel and disperse hundreds of migrants who rushed towards the border fence near Tijuana. Alfonso Navarrete, Mexico's minister of the interior, said Mexican authorities deported 98 migrants who took part in the effort to breach the border.

"They're very sad images," Correa said. "When you see refugees and you see tear gas, you usually equate it at some far off place in the world. And yet this is happening on the southern border."

migrant caravan — tear gas at U.S.-Mexico border
A migrant family from Honduras runs from tear gas near the fence between Mexico and the United States in Tijuana, Mexico, on Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018. Reuters

Correa also condemned President Trump for repeatedly making "inflammatory" comments and claiming hardened criminals are part of the caravans. In a Monday morning tweet, Mr. Trump called on the Mexican government to deport Central American migrants, threatened to shut down the border and said some of the migrants are "stone cold criminals."

Correa said everything was "more or less back to normal" at the San Diego border crossing during his visit, but stressed the difficulty U.S. officials face in processing thousands of asylum applications as large groups of migrants approach U.S. ports of entry.

"It's time we roll up our sleeves and address this issue," he said. "This is happening in our southern border. This is totally unacceptable."

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