(Bloomberg) -- The Biden administration is releasing its long-awaited strategy on addressing the root causes of migration from Central America as it continues to struggle with record high numbers of apprehensions at the U.S. southern border.
The strategy, spearheaded by Vice President Kamala Harris and the White House national security team, calls on the U.S. to help expand economic opportunities in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador in part by urging private-sector companies to invest there. It also includes programs to make agricultural operations that form the backbone of those nations’ economies more resistant to natural disaster and climate, which have caused people to flee.
The document also outlines efforts to fight corruption, promote democratic governance and protect human rights as well as plans to counter smuggling rings, domestic violence and gender-based crimes.
The strategy, according to a White House fact sheet, “is driven by the U.S. government’s belief that all individuals should be able to find safety and achieve a stable and dignified life within their own countries. When that is not the case, asylum and other legal migration pathways should be available to those who need them.”
Harris, in a letter, said that the coronavirus pandemic “and extreme weather conditions have indeed exacerbated the root causes of migration — which include corruption, violence, trafficking, and poverty. While our administration is proud that we have sent millions of vaccine doses and hurricane relief, we know that it is not enough to alleviate suffering in the long term.”
She added that the administration had enlisted allies in the effort: “We have already received commitments from the governments of Mexico, Japan, and Korea, and the United Nations, to join the United States in providing relief to the region.”
More than 150 businesses have expressed interest in making investments and charitable contributions to the region. Twelve companies have already done so. The UN also plans to issue a humanitarian response plan in September, according to a senior administration official who briefed reporters on the plan.
Another official said the administration’s goal is not to end migration from Central America but rather to ensure people come using legal means. The administration is exploring ways to make it easier for Central Americans to seek asylum in the U.S. while still in their home countries, making more work visas and refugee slots available to Central Americans and working with other nations like Costa Rica to accept more migrants from the region.
Biden, Harris and other administration officials have told migrants “don’t come” to the U.S.-Mexican border, saying that it involves making an unsafe journey.
U.S. authorities have reported more than 1.1 million apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico border this fiscal year, including 188,000 in June, a two-decade high that has fueled Republican criticism of Biden’s policies.
Yet more than a third of those who were caught were repeat crossers who had been apprehended by officers at least once in the past 12 months, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. That is being driven by Title 42, a public-health authority invoked last year by then-President Donald Trump that allows authorities to quickly expel single adults and families. Biden administration officials have not said when they would lift that order.
Trump and other Republicans have repeatedly assailed the Biden administration’s response to the surge in migration.
(Adds details on investments in region in seventh paragraph. A previous version corrected name of agency in penultimate paragraph.)
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