The United States will send an additional $310 million in aid to Northern Triangle countries and train a Guatemalan “task force” in an effort to upend the migrant crisis overwhelming authorities at the southern border, Vice President Harris announced.
The announcement came in a statement Monday from Harris’ chief spokeswoman and senior adviser Symone Sanders after the VP’s meeting with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei.
“In light of the dire situation and acute suffering faced by millions of people in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, Vice President Harris announced an additional $310 million in U.S. government support for humanitarian relief and to address food insecurity,” a portion of Sanders’ statement read.
Of the $310 million, $255 million will go toward humanitarian relief while $55 million will address food insecurity in the region.
In addition to the aid, Sanders said that Harris and Giammattei “committed to strengthen bilateral efforts to manage migration,” specifically noting that Guatemala planned to “increase the number of border security personnel and strengthen and enhance safeguards at its northern and southern borders.”
The two would also work toward opening migrant resource centers in Guatemala and “provide services for people seeking lawful pathways of migration as well as those in need of protection, asylum referrals, and refugee resettlement.”
As part of the effort to enhance safeguards, the US agreed to send 16 Department of Homeland Security employees to train members of a Guatemalan task force protecting the country’s borders.
“On border security, what was discussed was the establishment of a joint task force for border protection,” Guatemalan foreign minister Pedro Brolo said, “The U.S. government offered training.”
The US will also help with transitioning migrants back to life in the communities they were returned home to, agreeing to build shelters in the Central American country.
The Biden administration’s undoing of former President Donald Trump’s border policies has prompted a flood of Central American and Mexican illegal migrants at the US border, including thousands of unescorted children.
Central Americans looking for refuge from the Northern Triangle countries have taken these policy moves, as well as the overwhelmingly more welcoming tone from Democrats, as a sign that President Biden is inviting them to cross the border.
Insisting that the border was not facing a crisis, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in early March that the problems the agency faced should be blamed on the previous administration.
The data, however, overwhelmingly shows that migrants were flooding the border because they believed Biden would welcome them with open arms.
Late last month, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador blamed the new president for the crisis, arguing that the “expectations” he set left migrants with the perception that they would be let into the US.
As the crisis heated up, Biden tapped his vice president to address the diplomatic measures related to its “root causes.”
Speaking to reporters earlier this month while hosting a roundtable of experts on the Northern Triangle countries, Harris explained why she planned to travel to those countries but not to the US border.
“The president has asked Secretary Mayorkas to address what is going on at the border, and he has been working very hard at that and is showing some progress,” the vice president replied.
“I have been asked to lead the issue of dealing with root causes in the Northern Triangle, similar to what then-Vice President [Joe Biden] did many years ago.”
On Tuesday, Harris will take part in a virtual roundtable hosted by the US Embassy in Guatemala City with “representatives from Guatemalan community-based organizations.”
The meeting “will underscore the importance of placing the Guatemalan people at the center of solutions to root causes of migration.”
Harris, who confirmed last week she was planning a trip to the region, but not the US border itself, is also narrowing down a date for the visit, the White House said last Wednesday.