June 08, 2023

As Vice President Harris Meets with CARICOM Leaders, Castro, Salazar, and Espaillat Release Bipartisan Roadmap for U.S. Engagement with the Caribbean

WASHINGTON – Today, as Vice President Kamala Harris visits The Bahamas for high-level meetings with Caribbean leaders, Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Congresswoman María Elvira Salazar (FL-27), and Congressman Adriano Espaillat (NY-13) announced the U.S.-Caribbean Strategic Engagement Act of 2023, a comprehensive roadmap to modernize U.S. engagement with Caribbean nations. Castro and Salazar are the ranking member and chairwoman, respectively, of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere. Espaillat is a member of the Appropriations Committee and the first Dominican American elected to the U.S. Congress. 

“Over the seven years since Congress last directed the State Department to develop a strategy for engagement with the Caribbean, the challenges and opportunities faced by the United States and our Caribbean partners have changed significantly,” said Congressman Castro. “Today, as we explore new possibilities for regional integration and economic growth and confront new threats – from climate change to democratic backsliding – the time has come for an updated strategy. The U.S.-Caribbean Strategic Engagement Act of 2023 demonstrates Congress’ bipartisan commitment to deepening our relationship with Caribbean nations and improving the lives of people across the Western Hemisphere. I thank Chairwoman Salazar and Congressman Espaillat for their partnership on this bill and look forward to moving this important legislation forward.”

“It is in the best interest of South Florida and the United States to have a secure, prosperous, and sovereign Caribbean,” said Congresswoman Salazar. “We need to have a productive strategy to make sure it remains one of the world’s top destinations for investment and tourism. A safe Caribbean is good for tourism, national security, and eases the migration crisis.”

“As we continue our coordinated efforts to strengthen U.S. relations throughout the Caribbean, my colleagues and I feel it is important to update the U.S.-Caribbean Strategic Engagement Act of 2016 to reflect the current challenges the region is facing as of 2023. I am proud to co-lead this new bill, which will update the 2016 law to require our government to create a strategy to address the growing threat of illicit gun trafficking and violence in the Caribbean, while simultaneously improving renewable energy access, climate adaptation efforts, and public health cooperation efforts throughout the region,” said Congressman Espaillat.

The U.S.-Caribbean Strategic Engagement Act of 2023 would require the U.S. Department of State to develop and submit to Congress an updated multi-year strategy for U.S. engagement with the Caribbean. Within the updated strategy, the bill specifically calls for the United States to prioritize:

  1. Reducing the flow of illicit United States firearms to the Caribbean region and providing technical support, training, and information-sharing to Caribbean security forces charged with monitoring maritime borders, including formal and informal ports of entry. 
  2. Improving energy security, resiliency, and independence by working to finance increased access to diverse, reliable, secure, and affordable renewable power solutions. 
  3. Supporting regional adaptation and resilience to the climate-driven effects of severe weather events and natural disasters.
  4. Advancing cooperation on democracy and human rights throughout the region and in multilateral fora. 
  5. Improving public health cooperation and infrastructure to mitigate health concerns and threats to the Caribbean region, including through professional exchanges, medical education, and U.S. exports of medical services, technology, and pharmaceuticals to prepare for future pandemics and health emergencies, expand the accessibility of health services to marginalized populations, and reduce dependence on medical imports from malign actors in the region and elsewhere. 
  6. Supporting regional initiatives to advance food security throughout the Caribbean. 
  7. Expanding Internet access throughout the region, especially for marginalized communities, while working cooperatively to enhance data privacy and security. 
  8. Advancing access to education and critical skills for at-risk youth, women, and girls in the Caribbean region.

Today’s bill release builds on extensive efforts by Congressman Castro to address core areas of interest for U.S. engagement with the Caribbean. In 2020, Castro introduced the Global Small Business Network Act, bipartisan legislation that would address the root causes of migration and promote economic prosperity by supporting Caribbean nations in efforts to foster entrepreneurship and small business growth. Last year, he introduced the Americas Regional Monitoring of Arms Sales (ARMAS) Act, legislation that seeks to disrupt firearm trafficking from the United States to the Caribbean by implementing stronger transparency, accountability, and oversight mechanisms for U.S. small arms exports. In April 2023, Castro launched a federal probe through the U.S. Government Accountability Office into the impact of firearms trafficking from the United States to the Caribbean after Caribbean officials claimed that many illicit firearms traced from the region originated in the United States. Castro has also repeatedly spoken out on the importance of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haiti.

The text of the U.S.-Caribbean Strategic Engagement Act can be found here.