Vice President Kamala Harris on Friday called for “immediate relief” for Northern Triangle countries in a “virtual” meeting with the Mexican president — part of her strategy to counter “root causes” of the migration crisis at the southern border.
“It is in our countries mutual interest to provide immediate relief to the Northern Triangle and to address the root causes of migration,” Harris told President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
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Harris has been put in charge of handling diplomatic talks with Mexico and the countries making up the Northern Triangle — Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — in order to solve the massive migrant wave that has crashed against the border in recent months.
Critics have attributed the surge to President Biden’s rapid rollback of a number of key Trump-era policies, including limiting the use of Title 42 and ending the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) while also narrowing interior enforcement.
But the Biden administration has placed increased emphasis on “root causes” like violence, poverty and climate — with Harris regularly listing a number of causes for why migrants have been increasingly making the dangerous trek north.
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Harris has called for significant investment in the region in everything from stemming violence against marginalized groups to assisting farmers to plant drought-resistant crops. She has touted an initial $310 million in aid being sent to the region, part of a broader $4 billion planned investment by the Biden administration.
In her discussion with the Mexican leader, Harris said it was “in our mutual interest to address some of these root causes” and said she wanted to do it in a way that “internationalizes our approach.” She has previously said she has spoken to leaders of Japan, Ireland and Finland about the crisis in the region.
“And our approach is a comprehensive strategy approach. Our approach is to work with international institutions, to work with nations worldwide, the private sector and community organizations,” she said.
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Lopez Obrador, meanwhile, emphasized a common approach: “We have so many things in common and we are in agreement when it comes to the policies that you are undertaking when it comes to migration and we will help.”
“That is what I can say as of now. You can count on us,” he said.
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Harris has been criticized by Republicans for not visiting the border in her role, with now more than 40 days without a border visit or a press conference. The White House has pushed back, saying she is involved in diplomacy, not the border per se.
But it will be even longer before her first in-person trip. While she has held a number of “virtual meetings” with Mexican and Guatemalan leaders, she will not visit both countries in-person until next month.