Vice President Kamala Harris claims the “long-standing issues” from the “lack of climate adaptation and climate resilience” as well as government corruption from Northern Triangle countries are the real root causes playing a big role in driving the recent “alarming” surge of migration at the southern border.
In web-streamed remarks to the annual Washington Conference on the Americas Tuesday morning, Harris cited the distinction between the “acute factors” such as COVID-19, hurricanes, and food insecurity along with the “long-standing issues” from corruption to climate change that the Biden administration is mostly focusing on when addressing the root causes of migration.
“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,” Harris said.
“First, the acute factors, the catastrophes that are causing people to leave right now; the hurricanes, the pandemic, the drought, and extreme food insecurity. Then there are the long-standing issues, the root causes. 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.
Harris didn’t explain in details regarding her claims she believed are to be the factors and issues of the root causes, but vaguely cited the “relentless corruption” in the Northern Triangle regions in Guatemala and just recently with El Salvador’s parliament who voted over the weekend to oust judges to undermine the country’s Supreme Court.
“No matter how much effort we put in on curbing violence, on providing disaster relief, on tackling food insecurity, on any 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,” Harris said. “We know corruption causes government institutions to collapse from within, preventing people from getting their children educated, from getting a business started, from getting a fair trial.”
“In the Northern Triangle, we also know that corruption prevents us from creating the conditions on the ground to best attract investment. Around the world, we know that corruption inhibits shared prosperity. In fact, the global cost of corruption is as much as 5 percent of the world’s GDP. 5 percent,” Harris added.
The Vice President said regardless of the corruption concerns, the Biden administration intends to immediately assist by addressing climate change as one of the root causes driving the surge at the southern border.
“The citizens of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras are leaving their homes at alarming rates, but there’s a fundamental truth behind that headline,” Harris said.
“In El Salvador, in the face of violence, we must focus on high-crime areas and give young people alternatives to gang recruitment. In Honduras. In the wake of hurricanes, we must deliver food, shelter, water, and sanitation to the people. And in Guatemala, as farmers endure continuous droughts, we must work with them to plant drought-resistant crops. We must also help them and help women farmers increase their harvest. This work makes a difference.” Harris added.
Harris touted recently boosted U.S aid to Central America, a $310 million investment that the Biden administration will additionally send to the region “for humanitarian relief and to address food insecurity.” $255 million will go towards humanitarian relief, while $55 million will address food insecurity in the region. The Vice President first announced the U.S. government support last week after a virtually bilateral meeting with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei.
She also noted the Biden administration is engaging in a “comprehensive strategy” with other governments, communities, and the private sector, saying she recently spoken to world leaders from Japan, Finland, and Ireland about partnering with the U.S. to help Northern Triangle countries. Last week, Harris spoke with Finland President Sauli Niinistö in a call where the two spoke about “the need for more coordinated international action to address the root causes of migration from the Northern Triangle.”
However, during her brief 15-minute speech, Harris never mentioned the border nor minced the word “crisis,” even though President Biden recently admitted that the chaotic situation at the border was indeed a “crisis” as the main reason his administration decided not to increase refugee admissions. For weeks, the Biden administration refused to use the term when describing the dramatic influx of migrants crossing the border that saw a 20-year high. Instead, members of the Biden administration, including White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, instead would refer to the situation as a “challenge” while pointing fingers in blaming the Trump administration for dismantling the asylum system.
Harris has now gone 41 days without hold any type of formal press conference focusing on her role addressing the issue of the border crisis since being tasked the border czar in March. During those five weeks, Harris has spoken twice with Guatemalan President and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. She has yet to speak with Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández or El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele.
She also hasn’t made any trip down to the border but has crisscrossed the nation for other roles, including touting the $1.9 trillion “American Rescue Plan” COVID package, and now Biden’s proposed $4 trillion tax and spending proposals, including a $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan and a $1.8 trillion “families” social welfare plan.