AN EXTRA $310million is set to be sent to countries in Central America as the Vice President claimed "corrupt" governments are compelling migrants to hop the border to the US.
During the Washington Conference on the Americas, Kamala Harris hammered home what she claims are the "acute" and "root" causes of the migration crisis – including the "lack of climate resilience".
Despite being put in charge of the issue more than a month ago, Harris has been criticized for not yet visiting the Mexico border to see the humanitarian crisis for herself and before now failing to make any public remarks on the matter.
Since being named "border czar", the VP has traveled to states across the US, but has yet to head to the border.
Now, she has defended a decision to send an additional $310million to the Central America region of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras by saying the administration wants "to help people find hope at home" and blaming climate change in part for the problem.
It comes on top of $4billion already earmarked by Biden in an attempt to address the migrant crisis at the US-Mexico border.
"We want to pick back up the kind of work President Joe Biden started when he was Vice President," Harris said.
"And so, we are focused on addressing both the acute factors and the root causes of migration. I believe this is an important distinction. We must focus on both.
"First, the acute factors. The catastrophes that are causing people to leave right now – the hurricanes, the pandemic, the drought and extreme food insecurity.
"And then there are the long-standing issues, the root causes. And I'm thinking of corruption, violence and poverty, the lack of economic opportunity, the lack of climate adaptation, and climate resilience, the lack of good governance."
Before making the remarks today, Harris held two closed-door meetings with experts and philanthropists about the mass migration problem at the southern border.
In her remarks today, she spoke about how the administration plans to quell mass migration from the Northern Triangle countries to the US.
"Our administration is implementing a comprehensive strategy with governments, international institutions, the private sector, foundations, and community organizations," Harris said.
"The idea here is that our work will be coordinated— and that every sector will have a role to play."
And then there are the long-standing issues, the root causes. And I'm thinking of corruption, violence and poverty, the lack of economic opportunity, the lack of climate adaptation, and climate resilience, the lack of good governance
Harris added that they will not be able to make "significant progress" if "corruption" persists.
She said: "No matter how much effort we put in on curbing violence, on providing disaster relief, on tackling food insecurity, on all of it, we will not make significant progress if corruption in the region persists.
"If corruption persists, history has told us, it will be one step forward and two steps back. And we know, corruption causes government institutions to collapse from within."
During the month of March, the US has seen an influx of “more than 172,000 persons” trying to gain entry at the southwest border – a 71 percent increase from February, according to a Border Patrol release.
Biden's press secretary Jen Psaki last week insisted Harris' focus is "not on the border" – hence she's been a non-show at the southern border since Biden anointed her border "czar" weeks ago.
Harris recently explained that she hasn't visited the US-Mexico border yet — despite being pegged by Biden to head up the White House's border response — due to Covid-19-related issues.
When asked about this on Monday, Psaki said that "I would tell you … that her focus is not on the border."
"It's on addressing the root causes in the Northern Triangle. That's why the majority of her time has been spent on working … on a diplomatic level."
Meanwhile, in an interview with CNN's Dana Bash, Harris suggested she’s delegated the lionshare of responsibilities to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
The administration is already planning to send $4billion to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador over the next four years – a move Biden has been blasted for.
'STRATEGY IS MISGUIDED AND NAIVE'
The president is reportedly considering giving Central American countries a conditional cash transfer and vaccines, according to White House officials – but House Republicans do not support the measure.
The program would be aimed at Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, Biden's southern border coordinator Roberta Jacobson told Reuters as Reps. James Comer and Jason Smith expressed concern about the plan.
They told Acting Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young that it "is worrisome that the administration’s solution isn’t to reinstate those policies or replace them with workable solutions," however.
"But instead to funnel more money to pay countries to dissuade their citizens to break US laws, particularly countries with corruption concerns," read their letter obtained by Fox News.
"The strategy of sending cash payments to foreign countries to stem the tide of illegal immigration caused by Biden administration policies is naive and misguided.
"Moreover, the countries identified as potential recipients include some of the most corrupt countries in the world, with El Salvadaor and Guatemala ranking in the top ten."
However, the Biden administration is planning on pushing the $4billion plan to address gang violence, climate and economic instability in these countries.
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