• June 20, 2021

Exclusive: Harris arrives in Guatemala as Biden admin seeks to direct aid to address migration, corruption

 Exclusive: Harris arrives in Guatemala as Biden admin seeks to direct aid to address migration, corruption

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Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), which advocates for asylum-seeking children, said the Biden administration has asked Congress for $861 million in aid for the 2022 fiscal year. “This foreign assistance is desperately needed to fund programs that focus on economic opportunity, human rights, poverty reduction, and violence prevention, including addressing gender-based violence,” KIND said. “According to KIND research, gender-based violence has increased dramatically during the pandemic and contributed to increasing numbers of children and women fleeing their countries.”

“The visit also follows the administration’s launch of its Partnership for Central America, a new working group to unite government, civil society, philanthropy, and private sector partners to identify and implement sustainable solutions that address the root causes of migration from the region,” KIND continued.

In a letter released before the vice president’s arrival in Central America this week, a number of U.S. and Guatemalan organizations including Alianza Americas, FLACSO Guatemala, and Civil Society Articulating Group on Migration Issues for Guatemala offered a series of recommendations to aid in the Biden administration’s efforts, including aid to support the strengthening of the Guatemalan justice system, the strengthening of human rights protections, temporary protections for Guatemalan citizens already in the U.S., and the termination of anti-asylum policies, like Title 42. While the Biden administration has agreed to ease the Stephen Miller-pushed policy, it remains in place.

The organizations in the letter also addressed the toll that climate change has taken on the region, and its effects on migration north to the U.S. “Extreme weather is forcing farmers and their families off their land,” Sierra Club said last year. In their recommendations, the U.S. and Guatemalan organizations called on the Biden administration to “[e]nsure that U.S. investments are environmentally friendly and avoid the installation of extractive companies that damage ecosystems and the lives of rural communities.”

“We open a space for dialogue recognizing the U.S. government’s interest in addressing the root causes of international migration,” Alianza Americas Board of Directors president Mirtha Colón said in a statement received by Daily Kos. “We appreciate Vice President Kamala Harris’ leadership in creating spaces of dialogue, management, and advocacy with the governments of Central America and Mexico. We agree that this is no easy task, given it implies addressing the structural causes that affect us and contribute to many factors that encourage human mobility from Guatemala.”

“This administration has a unique opportunity rewrite the future history of migration and lead the United States in its groundbreaking effort to address the root causes that drive the migration of children and families from Central America,” KIND president Wendy Young said. “It will take time, commitment, resources, and strong partnerships, but we can get there if we keep children and families at the forefront. And as we seek this important progress, we must remember that unaccompanied children will continue to migrate, and their right to do so and their safety must be protected.”

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