U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris speaks in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building during the National Bar Association's virtual meeting in Washington, D.C., the United States, on Tuesday, July 27, 2021.
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Vice President Kamala Harris on Thursday released a comprehensive strategy to address the root causes of migration amid the recent surge in illegal border crossings between the US and Mexico.
The strategy states that the pandemic and “extreme weather conditions” have exacerbated the causes of migration, including corruption, violence, human trafficking and poverty.
The announcement comes as the government faces a crisis on the southern border with migrant detentions reaching a 20-year high in recent months.
According to US Customs and Border Protection, more than 1.1 million arrests were recorded in the first six months of this fiscal year. And in June alone, there was a record high of almost 190,000 arrests.
While the Biden government has sent millions of doses of vaccine and hurricane aid to Central America, Harris noted that such short-term aid "is not enough to provide long-term relief".
Instead, the Vice President's strategy promises more sustained efforts to address the motives for migration, including a realignment of engagement in Central America.
"In Central America, the roots of migration run deep – and migration from the region has a direct impact on the United States," Harris wrote in a cover letter about the plan. "Because of this, our nation must work consistently with the region to address the needs that are causing people to leave Central America and come to our border."
Earlier this year, President Joe Biden appointed Harris to lead the government's diplomatic efforts to address the root causes of migration from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, and she visited the US-Mexico border in June as part of that effort.
The strategy is the Vice President's latest move to address these root causes and is a core part of the Biden government's broader plan, released Tuesday, to establish a "fair, orderly and humane immigration system."
The plan is divided into five pillars but does not provide a detailed timetable or policy actions to be taken. The pillars include combating economic insecurity and inequality, combating democratic corruption and promoting respect for human rights.
The plan also addresses gang violence and crime, and the fight against sexual and gender-based violence.
Harris noted that the United Nations and the governments of Mexico, Japan and South Korea have pledged to join efforts to combat the motives for migrating from Central America.
"The United States cannot do this job alone," Harris wrote in the cover letter. "Our strategy is far-reaching – and focuses on our partnerships with other governments, international institutions, companies, foundations and civil society."
On Tuesday, the White House also published a “Collaborative Migration Management Strategy,” which President Joe Biden had ordered in February. It describes how the US will work with other countries to "manage safe, orderly and humane migration" in North and Central America.
Efforts include expanding employment opportunities and protection in countries from which migrants leave, ensuring safe and humane border management, and creating more legal routes into the US.
Dozens of migrants of Central American and Mexican origins are sleeping on the esplanade of the National Institute of Migration near the El Chaparral border crossing, waiting for US authorities to let them into the country to begin their humanitarian asylum process in that country.
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Republicans have criticized the Biden administration for its immigration policies, claiming that the withdrawal of several directives enacted under former President Donald Trump encouraged illegal migration to the United States.
Democrats and immigration advocates have also put pressure on Biden to ensure humane treatment of migrant children and families at the border and repeal a Trump-era public health ordinance known as Title 42.
The Health Ordinance has allowed border officials to deport migrants without giving them the opportunity to apply for asylum.
On Monday, the Biden government also announced that it would speed up deportations for some migrant families through an "expedited deportation," which allows immigration authorities to deport a migrant without a hearing from an immigration judge.
The expeditious deportation procedure will apply specifically to family units who are not deported to Mexico under Title 42 and who are not entitled to asylum, according to a statement by the Ministry of Homeland Security.
This decision led to further criticism from supporters of the left.