Gov. Gavin Newsom will travel to El Salvador for his first international trip to learn about what drives people to migrate from Central America to the United States.
Newsom announced the trip during a Thursday event in Los Angeles where he met with lawmakers and community leaders to discuss immigration from Central America.
Next month, he’ll fly to El Salvador’s capital San Salvador to meet with leaders from the region, according to his office.
“While the Trump Administration demonizes those who are fleeing violence from Central America, California is committed to lifting up our immigrant communities and understanding the root causes of migration,” Newsom said in a statement. “I am looking forward to traveling to El Salvador in April to talk with the nation’s leaders and activists while deepening the bond between our families and communities.”
California is home to about 680,000 Salvadoran immigrants, the most of any US state, according to Newsom’s office.
Newsom has made a point of welcoming immigrants to California, presenting himself as a foil to President Donald Trump. One of the first bills he signed as governor allocated $5 million for a migrant shelter in San Diego. Earlier this month, he visited California’s border with Mexico, where he met asylum seekers at the shelter and gave a nationally televised interview to CNN about his opposition to Trump’s immigration policies.
Trump has advanced policies to cut down on immigration over the country’s southern border and harshly criticized migrant caravans traveling from Central America in recent months.
The migrants say they want to apply for refugee status in the United States because they face violence in their home countries. Migrants, including many children, travel in the caravans for protection.
El Salvador’s government has struggled to crack down on organized crime, including MS-13, a gang started by Salvadoran immigrants in the U.S. that has since spread to Central America. The country’s murder rate is among the highest in the world, although it has been declining in recent years.
It’s not unusual for California’s governors to travel abroad and meet with foreign leaders. Newsom’s predecessor Jerry Brown traveled to China, Russia, Germany and other countries during his time in office, often as part of his efforts to combat climate change globally.