US Vice President Kamala Harris rounded up her first official foreign mission in Mexico City by underlining the need to tackle the root causes of migration as crowds at the southwestern border grow by the hour.
I want to be very clear that the problem at the border in large part, if not entirely, stems from the problems in these countries, Harris said Tuesday.
I cannot say it enough: Most people don't want to leave home. And when they do, it is usually for one of two reasons: either they are fleeing harm or to stay home means they cannot satisfy the basic needs of their families.
Harris explained she had talks with Guatemalan officials in which agreements were struck for the US to fund projects that root out corruption, strengthen the rights of labourers and farmers, empower young women and more. And earlier Tuesday, she met with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in Mexico City to discuss bolstering economic conditions in Central America.
Harris and Lopez Obrador watched as aides signed a memorandum of understanding to establish a strategic partnership to cooperate on development programs in the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.
Tens of thousands of their citizens have left home to trek through Mexico to try to get into the United States in recent months, with more than 178,000 migrants reaching the US border in April, nearly half from Central America.
Harris had a blunt message Monday for Latin American migrants as she visited Guatemala: “Do not come.” She said the U.S. was “not afraid” to enforce its immigration laws and stop people at the border. However, President Joseph Biden has allowed unaccompanied migrant children to stay in the United States, unlike former President Donald Trump, who expelled them.
López Obrador, responding to a shouted question from a reporter whether Mexico was willing to increase its immigration enforcement, said he and Harris “will be touching on that subject, but always addressing the fundamental root causes” of the surge in migrants.
Harris was said to have told the Mexican leader in their private talks that new investments were on their way to southern Mexico including loans for affordable housing so that people had a reason to stay home and not migrate.
In addition, the U.S. has committed about $130 million over the next three years to support workers and labour reforms. Harris told Lopez Obrador her country would provide more forensic and law enforcement training in Mexico to help resolve more than 82,000 cases of missing persons and disappearances, a key concern for the Mexican leader.
After meeting with Lopez Obrador, Harris is talking with female entrepreneurs and holding a roundtable with labour workers.
Harris’ talks in Mexico were similar to those in Guatemala, where she emphasized “the power of hope” along with new efforts to fight corruption.
“I am here because the root causes are my highest priority in terms of addressing the issue, and we need to deal with it, both in terms of the poverty we are seeing, the hunger that we are seeing, the effects of the hurricanes and the extreme climate conditions, what we are seeing in terms of the pandemic,” Harris told reporters.