Harris Pledges $310 Million in Aid to Stem Crisis at U.S. Border
(Bloomberg) -- Vice President Kamala Harris pledged $310 million in additional humanitarian aid for Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador in an effort to stem a wave of migration from those countries to the U.S., her office said.
Harris discussed the funding in a Monday discussion with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei. The virtual meeting lasted roughly an hour, according to a senior administration official, and came before a June trip by Harris to the country.
Harris spokeswoman Symone Sanders said the leaders discussed the need for long-term economic growth to create jobs and stop the flow of migrants to the U.S., which has caused an early political and humanitarian crisis for President Joe Biden.
The aid package includes $255 million in relief funds to mitigate the damage from persistent drought as well as food shortages and the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Harris’ office. The money would also fund safety precautions for refugees and asylum seekers and provide health and disaster-relief services to people in those three countries.
Another $55 million in Department of Agriculture funds would go to strengthen Guatemala’s farming industry and expand access to daily meals and literacy programs in Guatemala and Honduras, Harris’ office said.
Biden chose the vice president to lead the diplomatic response to the migration crisis by engaging with Central American governments.
The president has said that the U.S. must address so-called “root causes” of migration such as poverty and violence in Central America to solve the problem.
But congressional Republicans as well as former President Donald Trump say Biden’s reversal of Trump’s hard-line immigration policies encouraged more border crossings, a charge the administration rejects.
The administration is also pressing Central American governments to crack down on corruption and crime, which officials say are the main impetuses for migration, and take immediate steps to secure their own borders.
Guatemala pledged to increase the number of security personnel at its borders to stop migrants from Honduras and El Salvador from continuing north, Sanders said. The two governments also promised to deepen law-enforcement cooperation against narcotics traffickers and human-smuggling rings.
Guatemala also plans to open so-called Migrant Resource Centers jointly with the U.S. for people to apply for asylum or refugee status, or seek an immigrant or work visa, before making the journey to the border.
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